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Tennessee County History Series 


Frank B. Williams, Jr., Editor for East Tennessee 
Robert B.Jones, Editor for Middle Tennessee 
Charles W Crawford, Editor for West Tennessee 
J. Ralph Randolph, Coordinator 

Anne B. Hurley 


McMinn County 

by C. Stephen Byrum 

Frank B. Williams, Jr. 


tc Ijp hs 


Memphis, Tennessee 

Copyright © 1984 by Memphis State University Press 

All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced or 
utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical 
(including photocopying and recording) or by any information 
storage and retrieval system without permission from the 

Maps prepared by MSU Cartographic Services Laboratory 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

Design by Gary G. Gore 

ISBN 0-87870-176-1 



This work has truly been a labor of love. It has given me the 
opportunity to explore my roots in a special way, and has pro- 
vided the chance to add substance to that feeling of uniqueness 
that McMinn County has always provided for my life. 

My hope is that this book has been written in such a way that 
not only trained historians and accomplished history "buffs" can 
profit from contact with it, but that school children and non- 
academics can be brought to have interest in and appreciation 
of their own geographical and historical backgrounds. Someone 
wisely remarked that it is difficult to know where we are going 
unless we have some idea of where we have been. 

The thorniest problem in writing this book has been the de- 
cisions about what would be left out. It is certain that much more 
has been omitted than has been included. I hope that at some 
future time this material will become the basis for an exhaustive 
history of McMinn County. But space limitations and economic 
considerations notwithstanding, this material does represent the 
first specific attempt at an even relatively complete county his- 
tory o£ this area. 

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of all those who 
shared their personal reminiscences, and those whose often un- 
credited work appeared across the years in newspaper articles 
and retrospectives about the county that I have researched. Both 
The Daily Post- Athenian and the Etowah Enterprise have turned out 
excellent special edition histories in the last several years. I am 
particularly indebted to the writing of James Burn, Neal Ens- 
minger, Frank McKinney, W. E. Nash, Grace Oliphant, and Mrs. 
Harold Powers in these papers. I am also indebted to the DPA 
for several of the older pictures that have been included. Burn, 
the McMinn County historian, made numerous helpful sugges- 
tions following his close reading of the original manuscript. 

Those who have worked with this project at Memphis State 
University Press have been of utmost help. I am indebted to the 
advice and direction of J. Ralph Randolph. In addition, the ex- 


McMINN vii 

ceptional editorial assistance of Frank Williams and Nancy Hur- 
ley has enhanced this material tremendously. My special gratitude 
must be expressed to them. 

Most importantly, 1 appreciate the support of my family in 
this project. My son, Philip, did a good deal of the initial research 
on the Indian activities in the area. My daughter, Meredith, re- 
peatedly provided "good company" on jaunts into the backwoods 
of the county to run down some lead or visit some site. My wife, 
Phyllis, has a gift for clarity of expression and what will be of 
lasting interest that has contributed immeasurably to the fin- 
ished product. With great affection, I dedicate the work to her. 

History is dynamic and most of it is lived out between the 
lines of that which finally is recorded in documents. This book 
is an affectionate look backward, a pause that allows us to re- 
member — and in remembering, to see a "best" about ourselves 
that compels us to move into the future with renewed vitality. 

A Preface of Wanderings and Personal Glimpses 

When I think about McMinn County, I recognize that it has 
already taken on mythological proportions in my own mind — 
perhaps everyone's "home" does. It is sometimes difficult to sort 
out a myth, particularly in the South, and to preserve a sensitive 
tension between, on the one hand, the idea that this place that 
you care a great deal about is unique, and on the other, that there 
must be thousands of other small counties just like it — with sim- 
ilar histories and similar faces — from one end of this nation to 
the other. What our age desires is fact and not myth, but what 
we may need is feeling, too — so that the bones of the past can be 
given flesh and the cold vestiges of historical data, the faded, 
one-dimensional photographs of unremembered faces and un- 
accustomed styles can be warmed with memory and appreciation. 

There is a distinct difference between history and heritage. 
Heritage is history that has somehow become personal. It is her- 
itage that I am attempting to convey in these pages. More than 
to give a history of the county, I would like to convey something 
of the feeling of the place. If, beyond the data and the pictures, 
the names and the dates, there is created "a sense of place," then 
I will have been successful. 

As I try to work back through the layers of my own myth, I 
see the photographs of Margaret Bourke-White in You Have Seen 
Their Faces and Walker Evans in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. 
I, too, have seen the old Coca-Cola and Nehi signs with the ther- 
mometers built into the bottles, the walls covered with Cardui 
and Black Draught calendars, the faces which are shy before 
cameras but also proud of new, harnesslike overalls and blue 
serge suits. While I am sure that the pitiful poverty and degra- 
dation of the tenant sharecroppers captured by the photographs 
in the 1930s could have been found in McMinn County, on the 
whole it seemed always to be a more affluent, cleaner, less-given- 
to-extremes, and generally happier place than the highly dra- 
matized, southern myths might suggest. 

The Civil War did not rage here, although there were a few 
battles and skirmishes. There were few, if any, antebellum man- 
sions of the Tara variety, although there were and are many fine 
homes. Neither the KKK nor the Civil Rights movement became 


McMINN ix 

items of major significance, although there have been moments 
of memorable division and conflict. From the county's inception 
there has been change, but like its waterways — the Hiwassee, 
Eastanallee, and Conestaga — it has almost always been calm, easy, 
consistent, and at times even touched with a marked beauty. 

Another part of my personal myth grows out of the work of 
one of the greatest Tennessee literary figures, James Agee. Sur- 
rounding the plot of his epic A Death in the Family are human 
glimpses of Knoxville and East Tennessee in the early part of the 
1900s. His description of the homes — "middle-sized gracefully 
fretted wood houses, with small front and side and more spa- 
cious back yards, and trees in the yards, and porches" — perfectly 
describes the finest dwellings which spread out from Washington 
Street and Madison Avenue, along Jackson Street across the 
bridge, and surrounding the college in the Athens of my youth. 
These were proud structures, like the people who lived in them, 
reflecting a precise attention to detail and craftsmanship which 
sometimes seems almost totally lost, unnecessary, or unafford- 
able in the sameness of the modern dwelling. 

Agees most poignant scene is of the summer evening ritual 
of men coming home from work, completing their evening meals, 
removing their starched white collars, and spending a good part 
of the early evening with hose in hand watering their lawns. With 
an almost religious precision the hose is uncoiled, the nozzle finely 
adjusted, the lawn given its nightly drink, and then the hose 
carefully recoiled and stored away. 

It is not of the games children play in the evening that I want to 
speak now, it' is of a contemporaneous atmosphere that has little 
to do with them: that of the fathers of families, each in his space 
of lawn, his shirt fishlike pale in the unnatural light and his face 
nearly anonymous, hosing their lawns. These sweet pale stream- 
ings in the light lift out their pallors and their voices all together, 
mothers hushing their children, the hushing unnaturally pro- 
longed, the men gentle and silent and each withdrawn into the 
quietude of what he singly is doing, peaceful, tasting the mean 
goodness of their living like the last of their suppers in their mouths; 
while the locusts carry on this noise of hoses on their much higher 
and sharper key. 

x Tennessee County History Series 

Lawn is a curious word, a sophistication of yard, and certainly 
a far cry from the solid red-clay living spaces that surrounded 
settlers' cabins which were meticulously swept daily by the women 
as they also swept the dirt "floors" of the insides of their cabins. 
A lawn may have represented the first thing grown for decora- 
tion and not food; the spigot in the wall, quick and easy water 
that did not have to be laboriously carried in small amounts from 
a well, cistern, or spring. The evening ritual allowed the men, 
surrounded by their places and their families, a moment of med- 
itative solitude. 

In my earliest memories, my father stood there with his 
neighbors on summer evenings and watered his lawn. He and 
his neighbors were not dressed in the suspenders and collarless 
white shirts of Agee's Knoxville, but the matching green or gray 
of a factory foreman's uniform from Sears 8c Roebuck. He always 
paid careful attention to a pecan tree to mark the fact that he 
had lived in this place. My brother and I were put to bed with a 
Bible storybook that had served two generations, and the hissing 
of the hose became our lullaby. The sameness of the ritual gave 

But, we always stirred when our mother left the room — to 
stare out across the semidarkness of neighbors' backyards to the 
Keith mansion which dominated the horizon and Highway 1 1 
before there was a bypass and long before there was an inter- 
state. We counted cars and dreamed of where they were going. 
We wondered what people did in mansions. We listened to the 
spray of hoses, and like many before and since found our own 
way of sinking indelibly imprinted roots of McMinn County deep 
into the subsoil of our existence. 

Finally, my myth crosses the path of that superb Yankee poet, 
Wallace Stevens, and particularly his poem "Anecdote of the Jar." 
I have pondered it again and again from my own perspective as 
it has been informed by McMinn County. 

I placed ajar in Tennessee, 
And round it was, upon a hill. 
It made the slovenly wilderness 
Surround that hill. 

McMINN xi 

The wilderness rose up to it. 
And sprawled around, no longer wild. 
The jar was round upon the ground. 
And tall and of a port in air. 

It took dominion everywhere. 
The jar was gray and bare. 
It did not give of bird or bush, 
Like nothing else in Tennessee. 

The poet wintered in Florida during the early middle of this 
century and traveled by train and car through Tennessee on his 
way South — perhaps I counted his car one night as I stared out 
my window. Tennessee, compared to the urban organization of 
his Connecticut home, was wildernesslike and came to represent 
a general chaos of life that needed focal points — like the jar — 
that could give definition and meaning. 

I have always been troubled by Stevens analogy, especially in 
regard to McMinn County. Undoubtedly it was a wilderness when 
the first explorers under Hernando DeSoto came through the 
area in 1540. In many respects, the wilderness probably contin- 
ued its existence through 1819 when the county was officially 

But, a wilderness is not necessarily careless, untidy, or slov- 
enly — to use Stevens' word. A wilderness is also a challenge and 
an opportunity, an unmolded piece of clay, for those who have 
the courage to take it into their hands and make something out 
of it. These kinds of people do not simply need focal points to 
provide meaning in the midst of chaos, the tenacity of their own 
lives provides and becomes a focal point. Their lives impart mean- 
ing, and squeeze creation out of chaos. These kinds of people 
founded counties like McMinn, becoming respectful inheritors 
of the past and responsible transmitters of the best of that past 
to the future. 

In the fall of 1946 the most famous moment in the history of 
McMinn County took place. "The Battle of Athens"pitted newly- 
returned veterans, who had come to learn a new meaning of 
freedom in the hedgerows of France and the jungles of the South 

xii Tennessee County History Series 

Pacific, against the powerful political establishment backed by 
Shelby County's "Boss" Crump, one of the most powerful south- 
ern politicians since reconstruction. News of the "Battle," which 
will be described in detail in a later chapter, spread across the 
country, and inspired a series of such moments of "participatory 
democracy" in many locations. 

Theodore White, famous for his volumes on the making of 
presidents, was dispatched by Harper's Magazine to chronicle the 
events. Whites first impressions of the people and the county 
are revealing: 

The people of McMinn County, like the taut, coppery wires of the 
high tension lines which cross above them, hum with subdued 
peaceful activity until they are disturbed, and then, like the wires, 
they snap in a shower of sparks. The people are god-fearing. When 
the Robert E. Lee highway climbs out of the Shenandoah Valley, 
which can take its religion or leave it, into East Tennessee on the 
road to McMinn county the highway is sprinkled with signboards 
telling the godless wayfarers that "Jesus is coming soon" or warn- 
ing them "Prepare to Meet God." McMinn itself is relatively free 
of such shrieking witnesses to faith. McMinns religion is Methodist 
and Baptist, quiet, bone-deep, and sober. On Saturday afternoon 
when farmers throng the town, preachers are allowed to call sin- 
ners to repentance in the shade of the courthouse at the county 
seat. But most of McMinn meets God in the serenity of Sunday 
morning at the red brick or white board house of worship in peace 
and devotion. The church-goers have made liquor illegal, and 
Sunday movies are unlawful, too. 

Whites words were written almost forty years ago, and much 
of the physical landscape of McMinn County has changed. How- 
ever, the "internal landscape" has varied little. Religion and 
politics continue their influences. Slogans may have changed and 
even made their way to bumper stickers on cars, but still the oc- 
casional cross formed in concrete announces that "Jesus is Com- 
ing." The power lines still hum with TVA power, although now 
from nearby nuclear reactors. There are Sunday movies, but liq- 
uor is still illegal and lawmen and bootleggers only occasionally 
continue their ironic roles. 

McMINN xiii 

"Moonshine" holds little more than a cultural and aesthetic 
significance, as the accessibility of Knoxville and Chattanooga 
has made the art useless and unprofitable. Every few years a liq- 
uor referendum is held and the church leaders rally the "forces 
of good" to face the "principalities and powers of the rulers of 
the darkness of the world." They continue to win by safe mar- 
gins, and yet another periphery of the Kingdom of God is secured. 

Another Tennessean, Alex Haley, wrote recently about "roots." 
Somewhere between the myth that has grown in my mind, the 
view from a windy ridge, and the quiet of an old mill stream, I 
find McMinn County. My roots, like those of many like me, are 
found there. This is our story. 


c M I N N County covers 420 square miles of south- 
east Tennessee. It is characterized by wooded knobs, low ridges, 
panoramic vistas punctuated by the distant peaks of the Unakas 
and Great Smokies, and a life-giving system of seven major creeks 
which flow into the Hiwassee River along the county's southern 
boundary. The woodlands are full of game, the hills rich with 
ore, and the creeks a source of rich fertilization for the soil, en- 
ergy for the operation of machines, and transportation. 

It has been a place across the years where Indians, white set- 
tlers, and a few slaves did not simply survive but built lives that 
held every promise of being better in the future. For many, that 
promise has been kept; for many others, it continues to be 

The English poet William Wordsworth was convinced that 
the essence of a place was not really captured until the beauty 
of the natural geography was experienced first hand. For 
Wordsworth this experience came from walking the country- 
side, and the rural backcountry areas in McMinn County can be 
traversed today with much the same impressions that the Indi- 
ans and first settlers would have had two centuries ago. The county 
can be written about, and such writing will further knowledge 
about it; but to really be known, it must be walked, traversed 

j |- J LOU DON 




ISU Cartographic Servicer. Laboratory 

• Other Communities 

r* 1 Governmental Land Uses 

A™/ Interstate Route 

•{™\- Federal Route 

J\Tjp- State Route 

* — n local Route 


^^fe Major Streams 

SOURCE Tennessee Department ot Transportation 


again and again, until it is experienced and known up close and 

The land is given its character by the Hiwassee River which 
forms its southern boundary, and by the mighty Tennessee River 
which flows within only a few miles of most of the county's west- 
ern border. Six major creeks also wander across the landscape. 
Consequently, there are a series of ridges and sprawling creek 
valleys. The land is rich and often lush, making conditions ideal 
for the large farms that have existed since the earliest settle- 
ments. The streams made a variety of mill industries possible, 
and the rivers first provided efficient transportation and even- 
tually the boon of cheap electrical power that attracted major 
industry in later years. 

The best views are from the ridge tops, especially when the 
vistas spread out toward the east with Starr's Mountain and the 
Great Smokies rising as backdrops. The roads that lead out of 
Etowah and Englewood toward Tellico Plains and the northern 
part of Polk County pass through some of the most beautiful 
countryside in all of Tennessee — Mecca Pike is aptly named. 

There are other byways that are well worth the time spent 
exploring: northeast of Athens through the Mayfield farms and 
the Mount Harmony community toward Madisonville; north- 
west of Athens along the Old Niota Road; from near the Meigs 
County line back through the valley to Riceville; the Piney Grove 
Road down toward Polk County and then back along what is now 
called the Bowaters Road to Calhoun. The streams must be fished, 
if only for the quiet that is still there and the occasional evidence 
of an old mill. Wordsworth would have loved it. 

From Pre-Indians Days to the Cherokee Removal 

There is no way to tell with precision how far back into his- 
tory civilized life has existed along the banks of the Tennessee 
and major tributaries like the Hiwassee. The farmers who tilled 
the soil in the bottom land near Calhoun continually found skel- 
etal remains and artifacts until the 1930s when the TVA dams 
were built. 

4 Tennessee County History Series 

In all likelihood there was habitation here as far back as per- 
haps 6000 bc; the period from 6000-1000 bc is often known as 
the Archaic Period. In other parts of the world at this time other 
river civilizations were also coming into existence, notably along 
the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in the ancient Near 
East, and the Indus River valley in India. 

A second period of likely habitation is known as the Wood- 
land Period, and sometimes is referred to as the Wigwam Period 
because of the type of dwellings that were constructed. The peo- 
ple of this period, approximately 1000 bc-1000 ad, were pri- 
marily hunters. They are sometimes called "Mound Builders" 
because of their burial practices, and although no major mounds 
have been excavated in McMinn County itself, such mounds could 
easily be obscured, given the rolling nature of the countryside, 
erosion, and the growth of vegetation over a millennium or more. 

Several years ago on an island near the mouth of the Hi- 
wassee west of Calhoun two pieces of statuary closely resembling 
idols worshipped by the Aztecs of Mexico were discovered. The 
statues were characterized by wide open mouths just like the 
Aztec sacred icons. Since no North American Indians were sup- 
posed to be idol worshipers, it was generally assumed that these 
were artifacts left by DeSoto and his men as they moved through 
the area in the mid- 1500s. However, it could as easily be that the 
artifacts were relics of some much-older civilization that touched 
the region. 

Hiwassee Island, described in the sesquicentennial edition of 
The Daily Post-Athenian as "an island that parts the current of the 
Tennessee River where the yellow Hiwassee boils into it from the 
Big Smokes," is an intriguing place. Mounds as well as pyramidal 
buildings that housed an intricate worship system and were 
probably part of a culturally advanced community have been 
excavated here. In later years Sam Houston had a home there. 

A more settled group of hunters and farmers, the Mississippi 
Indians, appeared around 1000 ad throughout the state. This 
group later evolved into the more specific Creek tribe in the east 
and Chickasaw in the west. The state was traversed by trade routes 
and warpaths, some that regularly carried tribal movements from 


as far away as Illinois and Florida. By 1700 the powerful Cher- 
okee tribe, which is of greatest significance to McMinn County, 
migrated into the area from near the Great Lakes and drove the 
Creeks into Georgia. A lesser tribe, the Yuchi, from which the 
familiar Meigs County name Euchee is derived, was also forced 
to leave the immediate area. 

The Cherokees had a tremendously complex society. They 
were careful managers of their environment, humane in the de- 
velopment of their tribal relationships, and sensitive to the need 
to educate their children. Some of the most important advances 
of native American civilization, such as the written language de- 
veloped by the great leader Sequoyah in the early 1800s and a 
form of self-government modeled on that of the United States 
Constitution itself, were Cherokee. Although the Cherokees may 
have cooperated with the English in the Revolutionary War pe- 
riod, by the time of the wars against the troublesome Creeks and 
Chickamaugas, and the War of 1812 they were actively involved 
in the American advance. 

One of the most significant battles of this period involved a 
McMinn County native Cherokee, John Walker, who will be dis- 
cussed in detail later. The Creeks of Georgia and Alabama had 
rallied to the war cries of the British-inspired firebrand Te- 
cumseh. On August 17, 1813, between 250 and 400 settlers were 
killed in the Fort Mirns Massacre on the lower Alabama River in 
Georgia. As word spread of this event, 2500 men from the re- 
gion, both white and Cherokee, volunteered — here the state of 
Tennessee got its nickname — to fight for Andrew Jackson. The 
great Cherokee chief, Junaluska, gave the support of his people 
to Jackson, and on March 27, 1814, at the Battle of Horseshoe 
Bend nearly one thousand Creek warriors were killed and the 
British-Indian alliance broken. John Walker, perhaps the most 
famous early McMinn Countian, was a major in Jackson's forces. 

John Hart, a white settler from Roane County, was also a 
commander of part of Jackson's Tennessee volunteers, and was 
killed at Horseshoe Bend. His son, also named John, came to 
McMinn County as a youth and founded one of the county's old- 

6 Tennessee County History Series 

est families. The white settler and the Cherokee native found 
many occasions to fight side by side. 

As will be seen, it was mainly Cherokees who intermingled 
with the original white settlers in the area. There were numerous 
mixed marriages, and by the time written county records began 
to be kept it would have been difficult to find older McMinn 
County families that did not have some specific Cherokee line- 
age. This is especially true of those who settled in the Calhoun 
area. The Cherokee background is a proud aspect of the county's 
heritage, and from its inception one county high school athletic 
team has been appropriately known as "The Cherokees." 

Hernando DeSoto was born soon after Columbus discovered 
the new world, and he spent his entire life consumed with ideas 
of discovery, exploration, and conquest. He was with Francisco 
Pizarro in Peru, and Inca gold and jewelry made him wealthy. 
In 1539 he used his fortune to finance an expedition to North 
America to find rumored cities of Indian gold and silver. 

DeSoto was appointed governor of Cuba and Florida, which 
was the name used for the entirety of the southeastern United 
States. Many of the nearly 1000 men who accompanied DeSoto 
to America were ill-prepared to be frontiersmen; they were often 
affluent young Spaniards whose thirst for gold outweighed their 
good sense. DeSoto was so insecure about their ability to per- 
severe in the new world that when they disembarked near pres- 
ent-day Tampa Bay he ordered the ships to return to Cuba. 

It is difficult to know what word to use to describe DeSoto's 
journey through the Southeast. In a sense the men were ex- 
plorers and discoverers, but in perhaps a more accurate view 
they were lost wanderers at the mercy of the environment and 
the Indians who often both befriended and harassed them. The 
best evidence suggests that crafty Indian chieftains discovered 
that promises of cities of gold farther along kept the Spaniards 
moving and kept them from being much more than a temporary 
inconvenience. An occasional Indian village was looted or burned, 
and there were occasional Indian raids; for the most part, the 
Spaniards wandered. 

There is enough convincing evidence, however, in the chron- 


icles of the journey to consider it a fact that DeSotos men came 
into McMinn County. Sometime in 1540, the legend has it, the 
Spaniards camped on high ground overlooking Eastanallee Creek 
a short distance south of Athens. An old paper mill stood there 
in later years, and the site — its historical value well-established 
in the early settlers' minds — was considered a possible location 
for the first county seat. DeSoto died in 1541, and only about 300 
of his men survived to float down the Mississippi River and find 
their way safely to Mexico. 

Another early Spanish explorer, Juan de Pardo, came close 
to the area in 1566, building a small fort near present-day Chat- 
tanooga. By 1700 French traders regularly used the Tennessee 
and Hiwassee to move into the Carolinas. 

Early Settlers 

Significant European settlement did not occur until after the 
French and Indian War in the early 1760s when the territory west 
of the Appalachians to the Mississippi came under English con- 
trol, and more particularly, as regards McMinn County, not until 
after the Revolutionary War and the Cherokee treaties of the 
early 1800s. The closest English outpost before this period was 
built in 1757 at Fort Loudon in present-day Monroe County, about 
30 miles northeast of Athens, to protect Cherokee families from 
attacks by the French and their Indian allies. The primary link 
between people in this region and the outside world was through 

Historical records for the entire region from around the 
Revolutionary War until 1819, when the Cherokees ceded the 
Hiwassee District to the United States, are vague and incom- 
plete. Between the Revolution and 1819 there was an influx of 
settlers. By the time the county seat was transferred from Cal- 
houn to Athens in 1823 excellent court records and genealogical 
data began to be kept. 

Perhaps a few representative examples of settlement, sketchy 
as they may be, can help to capture the spirit of this period. In 
this regard the Walker family history is of greatest significance, 

8 Tennessee County History Series 

not only for McMinn County specifically, but because of its link 
to some of the most important personalities in the entire region. 

With the exception of Sequoyah himself, Nancy Ward is per- 
haps the most famous Cherokee. She rivals Pocahontas and Sac- 
kajawea in importance. Her own tribe bestowed upon her the 
title u Beloved,"the highest title that a woman could ever be given, 
which implied status equal to that of the chiefs themselves. The 
title conveyed almost mystical, divine powers — something equiv- 
alent to sainthood in modern vocabularies. 

Nancy Ward first married an important chief named King- 
fisher, and then an English trader named Bryan Ward. By King- 
fisher she had a daughter, Catherine, who later married a white 
trader named John Walker. The free use of Christian names and 
the marriages that occurred with increased frequency demon- 
strates vividly the close relationship between English and Cher- 
okee which was taking place in the mid- 1700s. 

John and Catherine Walker established a residence some- 
where along the Hiwassee in the southwestern area of the county. 
They had a son who was also named John, and it is he who be- 
comes the key figure. This John Walker captured the attention 
of Governor William Blount at the Battle of Buchanan Station 
in 1792. Blount wrote about Walker: "He has been raised among 
and by white people. Everyone who knows him has the utmost 
confidence in him. He is quite a stripling and apparently the 
most innocent, good-natured youth I ever saw." 

The younger Walker, who had a strong enough Cherokee 
ancestry to be considered "Indian," married Elizabeth Sevier, the 
widow of Joseph Sevier, who was the son of John Sevier, gov- 
ernor of the shortlived state of Franklin and the first governor 
of Tennessee. Elizabeth herself was a member of an important 
Cherokee family. Walker helped organize the Cherokee Turn- 
pike Company in 1806 that contracted to maintain the "Georgia 
Road" which ran through the area. He also operated a ferry near 
present-day Calhoun. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he was 
commissioned a major and received numerous commendations 
for bravery in battle. 

Following the war, Walker returned to Calhoun and was in- 


strumental in all of the treaty negotiations which led to the sur- 
render of Cherokee lands in Tennessee. These negotiations often 
took Walker and other major "chiefs" to Washington, or "Wash- 
ington City"as it was called, where he met with luminaries of the 
federal government of that time, especially Secretary of War John 
C. Calhoun. 

Several prominent Indians, who were deemed "capable" of 
managing their own affairs, and perhaps to reward their co- 
operation in the Hiwassee Purchase of 1819, were given choices 
of 640-acre plots which would be "reserved" for them in the newly 
acquired territory. Walker took his "reservation" at Walkers Ferry 
and this immediately was established as the town of Calhoun. 
Elizabeth Lowery Sevier Walker, after an unsuccessful attempt 
at acquiring land in present-day Monroe County, took land north 
of Calhoun at Pumpkintown. 

In spite of a somewhat questionable reputation at the time, 
Pumpkintown was designated the county seat in December of 
1823 and named Athens. The first organizational meetings of 
the county were held in Walkers home in Calhoun, and he served 
as one of the county's firstjustices of the peace. The Walker name 
has remained intact across the years in the county. 

An example of the European settlers in the county is the story 
of another Calhoun area family, the Sheltons, who trace their 
American lineage to a Ralph Shelton who was born in 1665 in 
Middlesex County, Virginia. Four generations later, Roderick 
Shelton served as a private in the Continental Army under Ceorge 
Washington. His son, James, moved to North Carolina in 1791; 
his son, James, at age 18 came to Greene County in Tennessee 
and married a Betsy Lawson. Around 1810 they loaded .all of 
their belongings on a flatboat and floated down the Tennessee 
to the Hiwassee, and then traveled up the Hiwassee to a place 
on the McMinn side of the river across from the large Cherokee 
Village at present-day Charleston. Why they decided to stop at 
this particular point, or if they planned originally where their 
journey would take them, is not clear. 

The Sheltons erected a log cabin, had a child, and soon there- 
after Betsy died. James enlisted in the army, fought beside Sam 

10 Tennessee County History Series 

Houston at Horseshoe Bend, and was back in the area by 1816 
when he married Sarah Hooper. They built a two-story frame 
house near the old log structure which became a well-known his- 
torical site until the TVA cleared the area in the late 1930s. 

It should be repeated that the Walker and Shelton stories are 
not unique. They are representative of precisely the kinds of 
people, particularly of Cherokee and English, and later of Scotch- 
Irish descent, that would come to live together and populate 
McMinn County. The events that punctuate these family histo- 
ries were undoubtedly repeated time and again among the first 
families that settled the county. 

The United States has always been characterized by the great 
mobility of its people. The mass migration to the "Southwest Ter- 
ritory" in the early nineteenth century populated McMinn County 
and all of the lands to the Mississippi in this first stage of "Man- 
ifest Destiny." A traveling missionary, David McClure, described 
a typical family group as it moved into the new lands: 

The man carried an ax and gun, the wife the rim of a spinning 
wheel and a loaf of bread. Several little boys and girls, each with 
a bundle according to their size. Two poor horses, each heavily 
loaded. On the top of the baggage of one was an infant, rocked to 
sleep in a kind of wicker cage. A cow was one of the company, a 
bed-cord wound around her horns, and a bag of meal on her back. 

During this same period families arrived whose descendants 
are still important in the county. Many came because they had 
either purchased land grants or secured them through military 
service. Many of these people were farmers; others followed as 
traders, merchants, or mill operators. It is impossible to do 
justice to this group here. Those mentioned are merely 

Asbury M. Coffey was the son of Eli Coffey who went into 
Kentucky with Daniel Boone. He lived in Athens until 1842 and 
was instrumental in some of the first railroading ventures in the 
county. He married Mary Bradford, the daughter of Colonel 
Henry Bradford who was a large landowner at the now-little- 
known settlement of Columbus which once existed in the south- 

McMINN 11 

ern part of the county and now is in Polk County. Coffey left 
Athens when President Millard Filmore appointed him to over- 
see Indian affairs in Kansas; later, one of his children migrated 
to Oregon. 

Jesse Mayfield, whose family name is now carried forward 
by the Mayfield Dairy Farms, was born in New York in 1770. He 
secured several tracts of land that became available after the Hi- 
wassee Purchase. One of the purchases, northeast of Athens, has 
never left the family. In fact, the original log home which Jesse 
Mayfield built was restored and stood as a county landmark on 
the property of his descendant Scott Mayfield until it was lost in 
a fire early in 1983. 

One of the most significant contracting and building firms 
of the Tennessee frontier has close ties with McMinn County. In 
1825 Samuel Clegg (after the Civil War the name was spelled 
"Cleage") settled in the Mouse Creek community. Clegg's father 
was from Pennsylvania, and had become very wealthy building 
mansions throughout that region in the late 1700s. The family 
can trace its lineage back to Belfast, Ireland. 

With his son-in-law, Thomas Crutchfield, Clegg established 
the firm that came to be known as "Cleage and Crutchfield." With 
extensive help from slaves and using methods of brick laying 
that he had developed, Clegg contributed substantially to the 
architecture of East Tennessee. Several buildings in Athens were 
constructed by the firm, including the Mars Hill Presbyterian 
Church and the old Hiwassee Rail Road headquarters building 
which still stands on North Jackson Street. The grand court- 
house which dominated the town square for the better part of 
the last century was built by Thomas and William Cleage in 1874. 
At one time the firm held contracts for nine courthouses in East 

The Cantrell family has long been important in the eastern 
part of the county. John Cantrell, the first member of the Can- 
trell family in America, was from Pennsylvania and had both 
Huguenot and Quaker antecedents. Like many frontier fami- 
lies, the Cantrells had a large number of children: 21 sons and 





Original architects sketch for the county's first courthouse. 

McMINN 13 

2 daughters, who contributed to proliferation of the clan from 
Pennsylvania to Georgia. 

One family legend describes a time when John Cantrell went 
into a mercantile shop and see hats for boys. The mer- 
chant displayed his selection of about a dozen hats, whereupon 
Cantrell stepped to the door and called his boys into the store. 
Twenty-one young men lined up at the counter, and the store- 
keeper was so flabbergasted that he gave each boy a new hat. 

One old record asserted that "the common wealth of Mc- 
Minn County has from pioneer days down revered the name of 
Cooke." In fact, the Cooke ancestry has crossed bloodlines with 
families as well-known as that of the English novelist Henry 
Fielding and the Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver. William Henry 
Cooke moved his family from South Carolina to McMinn County 
in 1820. He made large land purchases in the present Etowah 
area, operated an iron forge, and was a surveyor. He was active 
in laying out the town of Athens, was a state legislator, and helped 
start the State Bank of Athens. While serving as the institutions 
first president, he rode horseback every morning 13 miles to town 
and was always on the job by eight in the morning. Cooke was 
also active in the Meridian Sun Lodge No. 50, F&AM, which was 
always an important institution in the county. Cooke and his wife 
Mary had 12 children. 

The court records of the first quarter century of the county's 
existence reveal a high reliance on the counsel and judgement 
of Charles Fleming Keith. In many respects he charted the course 
and established the strong foundation upon which the county 
rested for its first century. Keith had been born in Virginia in 
1781 and by age eighteen was a law student with a close relative, 
Charles Marshall, who was a brother of the famous chief justice 
of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall. By 1819 Keith 
was a practicing attorney in Jefferson County and actively in- 
volved in the early sessions of the Tennessee Legislature. 

Following the Indian treaties of this period in which he took 
a large part, Keith came to McMinn County where he was a leader 
in every respect — political, civic, religious, and social. By 1850 
he owned 15,000 acres of land, 44 slaves, and was the main tax- 

14 Tennessee County History Series 

payer in the entire county. By the time of his death in 1857, Keith 
had performed the duties of a federal judge longer than any 
other American with the exception of Chief Justice Marshall 
himself. A large local Methodist church still carries the Keith name, 
and Mrs. Marshall Keith resides today in the stately Keith man- 
sion which is the best-known residence in the county. 

Other families, of no less significance than the representative 
examples noted here, have roots sunk deeply into the early his- 
tory of America and eventually came to McMinn before or near 
the time of its inception. The sequicentennial edition of The Daily 
Post-Athenian detailed several, including the history of the Lane 
family, whose forebears, Isaac and Tidence Lane, came to the 
county in the early immigrations, constructed a mill from Ten- 
nessee-made brick, owned a large number of slaves, and finally 
left the area for lands in Mississippi that could produce more 
cotton. The Kimbrough and Carlock families gave substance to 
the religious growth of the region. Clement Vann Rogers, born 
ten miles south of Athens on the old W. C. Townsend place, was 
the father of American humorist Will Rogers. Other names are 
prominent in the Post- Athenian chronicle: Ballew, Barb, Boone, 
Burn, Cass, Cooper, Dorsey, Fisher, Fore, Gettys, Gilbreath, 
Guthrie, Hart, Hill, Hoyal, Lowry, Love, Matlock, Parkinson, 
Shipley, Smith, Snider, Sullins, and Wilkins. 

Joseph McMinn, for whom the county was named, is an ap- 
propriate conclusion to this section. McMinn was born in Penn- 
sylvania in 1758 and migrated into the area around 1775. He was 
active in the first political movements of the state and involved 
in the 1796 convention in Knoxville which drafted the proposed 
first constitution for the state. McMinn insisted that a "Bill of 
Rights" be included, and he personally carried the proposed 
constitution to President George Washington. 

After serving in eight general assemblies and being speaker 
of the senate three times, McMinn was elected governor in 1815. 
He was reelected in 1817 and 1819. Although plagued by fiscal 
problems, McMinn's administrations dealt rather successfully with 
Indian problems, advanced education, and actively supported 



Joseph McMinn, 
the three-time gov- 
ernor of Tennes- 
see, for whom the 
county is named 

improvement of river navigation. He is remembered as being 
quite popular with the general population. 

In 1821 McMinn returned to farming in Rogersville, but by 
1823 had accepted a position as agent to the Cherokees at 
Charleston's Fort Cass. He lived in Calhoun and served as agent 
until his sudden death, which occurred while he was writing at 
his desk on November 17, 1824. While in Calhoun, McMinn be- 
came a member of the Presbyterian Church and it was his desire 
to be buried in its graveyard. 

In an interesting aside, the grave — like so many — went un- 
marked, and just one person, a Mr. R. J. M. Only, knew its lo- 

1 6 Tennessee County History Series 

cation. When, in 1880, a plan was proposed to dig up the remains 
and take them to Athens for reburial and the erection of a "proper" 
monument, Mr. Only refused to show where the grave was. Only 
was an eccentric lay preacher who had supposedly read the Bible 
27 times, argued his interpretations in all kinds of public set- 
tings, and was not beyond the convincing power of a good fist 
fight. He won the day and the monument was erected in the old 
Presbyterian cemetery at Calhoun where it stands in high visi- 
bility today. 

The Cherokee Removal 

Given the close relationship which existed between the Eng- 
lish pioneers and the Cherokees, the integration of the races 
through intermarriage which by 1800 constituted a racial syn- 
thesis (the famous chief, John Ross, was only one-eighth Cher- 
okee) in many areas like McMinn County, and the sophistication 
of the Cherokee people, the forced removal in the late 1830s of 
the majority of the tribe — which came to be known as the "Trail 
of Tears — is one of the darkest spots in the history of American 
expansion. McMinn County was in the center of the conflict, and 
the best evidence suggests that the citizenry of that time was 
strongly opposed to such inhumane and immoral activities. In 
fact, something of the "states' rights" sentiment that became of 
crucial importance in this area within a generation may have been 
born at this moment. 

Stereotypes about primitive Indians wandering around half- 
naked must be set aside when considering the early nineteenth 
century Cherokees. These were people who were living a settled, 
civilized existence that paralleled in every way that of their white 
counterparts. By 1805 Return J. Meigs, for whom Meigs County 
was named and whose granddaughter married John Walker, Jr., 
was taking care of Indian matters in the area. First he operated 
from "Old Agency" in present-day Meigs County, and finally at 
the agency established across the Hiwassee from Calhoun at 
Charleston. Meigs attained a wide reputation for helping the 
Cherokees with farming, diversification of crops, raising of live- 
stock, and trade. 

McMINN 17 

Although large numbers of Cherokees had voluntarily left 
for new lands in the West, by 1828 the equally large number re- 
maining continued to advance their own culture and strengthen 
their relationships with the white culture. In fact, one of the first 
successful American missionary activities was conducted in this 
area with the establishment of several mission schools which pro- 
vided education for the Cherokee children. Probably more 
Cherokees were educated in the region at this time than whites. 

But early in 1829 the entire picture changed. Gold was dis- 
covered on Cherokee land in Georgia near Dahlonoga! Accord- 
ing to Kenneth Valliere in an article on Jackson for the Tennessee 
Historical Quarterly: "Between four and seven thousand gam- 
blers, swindlers, debauchers, and profane blackguards, with 
morals as bad as it is to conceive, overran the Cherokee country." 

The Georgia legislature immediately claimed all Cherokee 
land. With a singlemindedness that would have made the old 
Spanish conquistadors proud, Governor George Gilmer even 
decreed that the land would be given to whites by lottery if the 
Cherokees could be removed. The tenor of the conflict soon as- 
sumed national significance. Andrew Jackson, who had com- 
manded the Cherokees at Horseshoe Bend, had become president 
in 1829. The Cherokee chiefs, thinking they had a sure friend 
in Jackson, appealed for consideration. Hard-nosed political 
pragmatist to the end, Jackson supported the position of Georgia. 

The Cherokees then went to Washington and appealed to the 
Supreme Court and John Marshall — perhaps given quick en- 
trance because of the chief justices relationship with the Keith 
family. The strongest supporter of the Cherokee claim was the 
Tennessee congressman, Davy Crockett. Crockett poked cutting 
sarcasm at the whole idea of removal of the Cherokees by intro- 
ducing a bill calling for the removal of the white residents of East 
Tennessee to the West, "lest they impede the territorial designs 
and sovereignty of the State of Georgia." In fact, in 1832, the 
Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokees. Cartter Patten 
recalls in A Tennessee Chronicle that the high court ruled: "The 
Cherokee Nation is a distinct community, occupying its own ter- 
ritory, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force." There 

1 8 Tennessee County History Series 

was great rejoicing in the Cherokee Nation, but the Cherokees 
did not know of President Jackson's reputed remark: "John Mar- 
shall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." 

Even the Cherokees were set at odds with each other. This 
internal division had a direct impact on McMinn County when 
in 1834 John Walker, Jr., who was also known as "Chief Jack, "was 
murdered by fellow-Cherokee James Foreman after Walker had 
undertaken what Foreman considered unauthorized negotia- 
tions in Washington involving treaties that would lead to removal. 

Foreman, with an accomplice named Isaac Springston, came 
to trial in Athens, but soon the question of murder became sec- 
ondary to the question of jurisdiction. Being quite sensitive to 
their environment, the McMinn jurors concluded that the mat- 
ter was wholly Cherokee and that they had all rights to adjudi- 
cate the case. However, as part of their desire to have higher 
claim on the Indians, the United States government got the 
McMinn decision reversed. 

While the Cherokees met to raise money for yet another ap- 
peal to the Supreme Court, Foreman and Springston, in some 
manner not a matter of record, suddenly were no longer to be 
found in the Athens jail. It seems that "frontier justice" prevailed, 
and that McMinn Countians found a subtle way of overruling 
the United States and affirming the stand that they took 
throughout the controversy. Records indicate that Foreman went 
West, was actively involved in seeking out and killing those who 
had agreed with the removal among his own people, and was 
eventually killed himself. 

Jackson sent the Reverend J. F. Schermerhorn into the area; 
he obtained highly questionable treaties from impressionable 
splinter groups who were generally unauthorized by the tribe as 
a whole and their central leader, Chief John Ross of Chatta- 
nooga. Schermerhorn was not beyond using whiskey and indi- 
vidual bribes to get the treaties that were ultimately accepted by 
the federal government and enforced by General Winfield Scott 
and 7000 troops beginning in May of 1838. 

The Cherokees were corralled by the hundreds at Charles- 
ton, Ross' Landing/Chattanooga, and Guntersville, Alabama. 

McMINN 19 

Citizens of McMinn petitioned for an end to the roundup, but 
no relief was forthcoming. An unidentified local missionary re- 
ported in his journal: 

The Cherokees are nearly all prisoners. They are dragged from 
their houses and encamped in military places all over the area.. 
They are allowed no time to take with them anything except the 
clothes they have on. Well furnished houses are left prey to plun- 
derers who, like hungry wolves, follow in the train of the captors. 
These wretches rifle the houses, and strip the helpless, unoffend- 
ing owners of all they have on earth. 

The following advertisement was placed in regional news- 
papers by Joseph Harris, disbursing agent for the Cherokee 
Removal under the heading "Wagons Wanted": 

Sixteen first rate road wagons with bodies of the largest kinds, 
each to be drawn by first rate six horse teams complete in gear and 
harness, will find employment during the removal of the present 
Emigration of Cherokees from their homes to their respective 
points; by their owners of such enrolling their names immediately 
at the agency. 

Three dollars and fifty cents per day will be allowed as a full 
compensation for the services of each team and its appertenances 
so employed — a loaded team to travel fifteen miles per day, with- 
out a load twenty miles. All ferriages excepting over the Hiwassee 
to be government charges. 

Before the deportation was complete, nearly 5000 Chero- 
kees had died, many from cold and hunger. Perhaps a thousand 
escaped to find refuge in the Tennessee and western North Car- 
olina mountains. The will of the federal government ultimately 
triumphed, and a major segment of McMinn County's unique 
culture was destroyed. 

From the Cherokee Removal to the Civil War 

The period from the Cherokee Removal to the Civil War was 
a time of great growth in the county. Individuals emerged who 
would make lasting contributions. Finally, people began to stay 

20 Tennessee County History Series 

rather than move on to the new frontiers. The fixtures of civil- 
ization — schools, churches, and political systems — could now be 
given lasting foundations. 

Those present at the organizational meeting of the county 
on November 13, 1819, at the home of John Walker in Calhoun 
were Archibald Black, Hambright Black, George Colville, Sam- 
uel Dickey, Benjamin Griffith, Jacob Sharp, and Walker. The first 
elected officials were Young Colville, clerk; Spencer Beavers, 
sheriff; A. R. Turk, trustee; Benjamin Hambright, registrar; 
Griffith Dickeson, ranger; and Jacob Work, coroner. Charles 
Fleming Keith organized the first court in 1820. Goodspeed's//£story 
of East Tennessee (1887) says of Keith that "He was a quiet, unas- 
suming man, of sound judgement, and had a good knowledge 
of the law; his decisions were rarely reversed by the supreme 

The first settlers of the county's first town, Calhoun, were the 
Colvilles, John Cowan, Benjamin Hambright, E. P. Owen, Eli 
Sharp, and A. R. Turk. A Presbyterian church was erected in 
1823. In this same year Martin Cassidy at Cedar Springs was asked 
to donate land for a new county seat that would be centrally lo- 
cated — he refused. Land was donated at Athens for this purpose 
by William Lowry. 

Specific reports about life in the county between 1834 and 
1852 are difficult to find. The 1834 edition of the Tennessee Gaz- 
etteer claimed a total population of 14,497: 6732 "free white males," 
6487 "free white females," 21 "free colors," and 1257 slaves. Ath- 
ens, always the most populous community, had a population of 
about 500 at that time. Most professions, businesses, and edu- 
cational institutions of that time are represented in the Gazetteer's 
description of the city. 

New settlers named Fyffe and Smith operated the first stores 
in Athens. Other early merchants were Solomon Bogart, Francis 
Boyd, John Crawford, Alexander and David Cleage, George 
Morgan, and O. G. Murrell. Joel Brown owned a tailor shop, 
and Peter Kinder, a hattery. There were a silversmith, George 
Sehorn, and a coppersmith, Julius Blackwell. Demsey Casey 

McMINN 21 

owned a saddlery, while James Gettys and Squire Johnson op- 
erated a tannery. 

The first doctors were John Farmer, Horace Hickox, Samuel 
Jordan, and Benjamin Stout. The first attorneys were Thomas 
Campbell, Spencer Jarnagin (who served in Congress under James 
K. Polk), and Return J. Meigs. Campbell achieved statewide ac- 
claim, as did T. Nixon Van Dyke, who located in Athens in 1829. 
In 1835 a branch of the Planters Bank was opened, and in 1838 
a branch of the State Bank. The first church, Zion Hill, was built 
by the Baptists. 

By 1850, Goodspeed reported, "Athens was at the height of 
its prosperity." Important businesses included: William Ballew; 
William Burns; A. Cleage and Company; Grubb and Engledow; 
J. M. Henderson; George Home; King and Crutchfield; Mc- 
Ewin and Gillespie; John McGaughey; A. McKeldin; Moss and 
Jackson; J. K. Reeder; Robeson, Sartain and Company; George 
Ross; Sehorn and Hornsby; and W C. Witt and Company. C. 
Zimmerman established a foundry about 1852, and the Meth- 
odist Episcopal female college was enjoying a growing reputation. 

Smaller communities developed as railroads came into the 
county. Riceville (on land donated by Charles W Rice), Sanford, 
and Mouse Creek (Niota) all started as sites of railroad stations 
and soon attracted small businesses and homes. Mouse Creek 
was particularly prosperous. J. H. Magill opened the first store 
there in 1855. Other merchants in the area, according to Good- 
speed, were E. Gate, J. N. Dalzell, A. Forrest, and Stephens 8c 
Browder. Early settlers at Mouse Creek included Greenbury Cate, 
L. R. Hurst, J. L. Hurst, John F. Sherman, H. L. Shultz, and 
James Willson. Many of the descendants of these people remain 
important in the northern part of the county. 

The Coming of War 

The years immediately preceeding the Civil War were a time 
of great drama for the nation. However, the war was uniquely 
accentuated in East Tennessee and in counties like McMinn. It 
is, of course, common knowledge that the proverbial "brother 


Tennessee County History Series 

The remains of the Gettys Mill on the Eastanallee near Sanford 

against brother" division of loyalties between North and South 
occurred throughout this area more often than perhaps any place 
in the entire nation. It took years to relax hard and fast political 
lines that had been drawn between "secessionists"and "Unionists" 
in early 1860. McMinn County played a unique role in these 

Before that uniqueness is explored, one common miscon- 
ception must be cleared up. It is often thought that the major 
issue dividing Tennessee was slavery, and that East Tennessee 
had fewer large farms and therefore less need for slaves than 
Middle and West Tennessee. There is information to undergird 
this view, and undoubtedly it did play at least some role. In 1840 
there were only 19,915 slaves in East Tennessee; this number in- 
creased to only 27,500 by 1860. Comparable figures in Middle 
Tennessee show an increase from 106,640 to 148,000, and in West 
Tennessee an increase from 56,600 to 100,200. 

McMINN 23 

By 1860 East Tennessee had only 10 percent of the states slave 
population and only 9 percent of the population of the region 
was slave. These numbers are quite small compared to the other 
major divisions of the state. McMinn County in 1860 had 124 
slaveholders who owned 678 slaves. As early statistics indicate, 
this number had decreased by almost 50 percent since 1834. 

However, East Tennessee can in no way be construed as a 
hotbed of abolitionist sentiment. Most of the strong Unionists 
were slaveholders. Abolitionist movements like the one at Mary- 
ville College in nearby Blount County were not well received. 
There is at least one account of abolitionist tracts coming to the 
Athens post office and being turned over by the postmaster to 
people in the streets who burned them. 

The dominant idea seemed to be that slavery could continue, 
and that the lot of the slave could be improved and protected by 
law. Paul Bergeron reports on two interesting cases in this re- 
gard. In one, a slave convicted of rape by a lower court was ac- 
quitted by the state supreme court, and the lower court was 
severely criticized for misconduct. In the second, a Washington 
County man willed his 112 acre farm to slaves, rather than his 
seven sons, and gave the slaves their freedom. When the sons 
sued, the courts upheld the claim of the slaves. One state su- 
preme court decision, quoted by Bergeron, read: 

The law takes the slave out of the hands of the master and treats 
the slave as a rational and intelligenthuman being, responsible to 
moral, social, and municipal duties and obligations, and gives him 
the benefit of all the forms of trial which jealousy of power and 
love of liberty have induced the free man to throw around himself 
for his own protection. 

This middle-of-the-road policy was probably more appeal- 
ing to McMinn Countians. In fact, they may originally have had 
a perspective on this issue that was even more liberal. In 1834 a 
new state constitution was drafted. A gradual emancipation pro- 
vision was introduced and supported by the signatures of 1800 
leading citizens from 16 counties — McMinn was one of them. 
Eventually the constitutional convention, by a vote of 44 to 10, 

24 Tennessee County History Series 

disallowed the provision. The McMinn delegation cast one of the 
10 supporting votes. 

Bv the 1850s the emancipation position was essentially over. 
Secessionists painted the northern abolitionists as meddlers and 
demagogues who would like nothing better than to start infring- 
ing upon the privacy of internal state matters. The challenging 
issue had become states rights. Abraham Lincoln was seen 
as a frighteningly malicious usurper of independence. Seces- 
sionists created an exaggerated image of abolitionists much like 
Joseph McCarthy created of communists a hundred years later. 

Strict Unionists held doggedly to their positions out of a deep- 
seated sense of loyalty. Their ancestors had fought and died for 
this Union at Kings Mountain and Horsehoe Bend. They were 
convinced that without strong centralization no government could 
endure, and they understood the consequences of a civil war. 
They were disciples of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and largely 
disdained John Calhoun's states rights views — Calhoun had been 
too dictatorial for many, especially in McMinn County, in some 
of his dealings with the Indians. 

Unfortunately, the march of events quickened. On Decem- 
ber 20, 1860, the "Convention of South Carolina" passed what 
was termed with great fanfare an "Ordinance of Secession. "Has- 
tily, to preserve some presence in the area, the United States Army 
took control of an antiquated harbor garrison, Fort Sumter — 
the lines of inevitable conflict were drawn. 

Other southern leaders called for similar conventions, and 
none was louder than Governor Isham G. Harris of Tennessee. 
Harris had been actively involved in the 1860 presidential cam- 
paign of John C. Breckenridge, who held the most extreme 
southern views. Early in January of 1861 Harris convened the 
Tennessee General Assembly and with a fusillade of disdain pro- 
claimed vengeance against the Unionist position. He called for 
a vote on February 9 to determine whether Tennessee would 
have its own convention to discuss secession. 

One could have easily predicted, by looking at the election 
returns in 1860, the quandary in which McMinn Countians would 
find themselves. Breckenridge had failed to carry Tennessee, being 

McMINN 25 

defeated by the Whig/Consitutional Union candidate John Bell 
in a vote of 69,176 to 64,809. In East Tennessee, that vote had 
been 22,043 to 18,800, and in McMinn County 986 to 978— the 
closest race in the entire state. Bell had strong Union loyalty at 
the time of the election, but it must also be recalled that he was 
a native Tennessean in the race. 

There commenced one of the most memorable times in the 
states history, and especially in the swing area of East Tennessee. 
The East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad cut across the western 
section of the county, and had major stations at Niota, Athens, 
and Riceville. Some of the most powerful political voices in the 
nation came to East Tennessee on the railroad. Speeches that 
went on for hours were typical. The Unionist leaders were men 
of such high status as Andrew Johnson (then a senator, but vice- 
president four years later), Horace Maynard, T A. R. Nelson, 
O. P. Temple, and C. F. Trigg. 

The secessionist leaders, in addition to Governor Harris, were 
equally commanding in their presence: John Crozier, Thomas 
Lyon, William Sneed, William Swan, Campbell Wallace, and 
William Yancy. Wallace was the president of the railroad which 
until 1855 had been headquartered in Athens — his was a familiar 
face throughout the county. The train depots and the court- 
house square were scenes of continual rhetoric and debate. Oc- 
casionally there were threats, fist fights, and even gunfire as the 
voting day came closer. 

The total vote in the referendum of February 9 was a mere 
54.5 percent against the convention, but in East Tennessee it was 
81 percent against. In McMinn County the vote was 439 for and 
1457 against. Memphis and Nashville continued as centers of 
Confederate support, Memphians at one time discussing their 
own, private secession. Knoxville and Greeneville were centers 
of Unionist sentiment. Governor Harris continued, undaunted, 
in his desire to bring the state into the Confederacy. 

Lincoln took office in March of 1861 and then ordered relief 
for the beseiged Fort Sumter in early April. On April 12 the Con- 
federate forces fired on Sumter, and Lincoln responded by call- 
ing for 75,000 volunteers to rise to the defense of the Union. In 

26 Tennessee County History Series 

less than two weeks, Harris reconvened the General Assembly 
and a second vote on separation was planned for June 8. 

The speech-making began again with a greater intensity. Now 
Confederate soldiers in uniform were gallantly paraded before 
impassioned youth, and the specter of 75,000 northern soldiers 
pouring through Cumberland Gap was raised again and again. 

Even John Bell, the stalwart Whig, finally succumbed to 
secessionist pressure to take up its cause. In a speech at Athens 
in early June he spoke half-heartedly about secession and then 
turned apologetically to his Unionist friend from McMinn County, 
John McGaughey, and said: "There is my friend, Mr. Mc- 
Gaughey, between whom and myself there used to be no differ- 
ence in our view. I know not how he stands in reference to these 
new questions." McGaughey replied in his gentle, earnest voice: 
"I am still for the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement 
of the laws." Many shared McGaugheys sentiments, in spite of 
the escalation of events. On May 30 the "East Tennessee Con- 
vention" was held in Knoxville to support the Union cause. 
McMinn County had 24 delegates; one of them, Dr. M. R. May, 
was chosen one of the vice-presidents. George Bridges was 
appointed to a reporting committee which produced a scalding 
indictment of the state legislature for its drift toward the 
Confederate cause. 

In the referendum of June 8, Middle and West Tennessee 
voted overwhelmingly for seccession, while East Tennessee voted 
more than two to one to remain in the Union. In McMinn County 
the vote was 904 for seccession and 1,144 against. With the ma- 
jority of McMinn County and East Tennessee remaining loyal, 
there was a final effort; a Unionist convention was held at 
Greeneville on June 17 to protest severe voting irregularities. 
The document prepared by this convention was dramatic, a pro- 
found political treatise in the finest of the American tradition. 
Unfortunately, the Greenveville convention was ineffectual — the 
die was cast. The McMinn delegates to this convention were M. 
D. Anderson, G. W Bridges, A. C. Derrick, and John McGaughey. 

The most striking Unionist spokesman, however, has not been 
discussed and it is this personality that provides the focal point 

McMINN 27 

of McMinn County's unique contribution to this period. The set- 
ting for the appearance of the spokesman was the old Methodist 
Episcopal campground two miles south of Athens at Cedar 
Springs. In his memoirs Dr. David Sullins, who was born in 
Athens in 1827, described the campground and the events that 
transpired there: 

There was a small log church, and a shed one hundred feet long 
and twenty-five feet wide, with wings on hinges. When these wings 
were down, it was a great tent, and when they were up, it would 
seat two thousand. The tents were rude shacks made of logs, some 
still with the bark on. There were no fireplaces. Beds were scaf- 
folds along the sides of the tents. All floors were dirt, covered with 
straw. At daybreak each morning, a loud horn sounded, at which 
time all arose and prepared for the day. Service hours were at 9:30 
a.m., 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and "candle-lighting." 

Into this scene stepped William G. "Parson" Brownlow, who was 
the minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 
Athens, the forerunner of the present Keith Memorial United 
Methodist Church. 

Brownlow was described as stepping into the pulpit, remov- 
ing his gunbelt and pistol, and preaching "hell-fire and brim- 
stone." The parson eventually led the Unionist movement in East 
Tennessee as editor of The Knoxville Whig. He spent most of the 
war years speaking in the North, hiding in Knoxville, and a short 
time in a Confederate prison. His wife was forced to move North, 
and his son was arrested for possessing and circulating an out- 
lawed book, Impending Crisis in the South. Typical of the division 
that was occurring, the charges against the younger Brownlow 
were brought by Gen. James T Lane of McMinn County. 

Following one imprisonment and an eventual escape to safety 
behind Union lines in March of 1862 Brownlow proclaimed: "Glory 
to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards 
men, except for a few hell-bent and hell-bound rebels in Knox- 
ville." This was indicative of Brownlow's style. He was always on 
the attack. He had once written defiantly in The Whig: 

I have been expected to state in every issue of my paper, that the 

28 Tennessee County History Series 

mantle of Washington sits well on Jeff Davis! This would be a funny 
publication. The bow of Ulysses in the hands of a pygmy! The 
robes of a giant adorning Tom Thumb! The curls of Hyperion on 
the brow of a Satyr! The Aurora Borealis on a cotton farm melting 
down the icv North! This would be to metamorphose a minnow 
into a WHALE! 

"Parson" Brownlow served as the first postwar governor of 
Tennessee. He was successful in introducing black suffrage in 
the state, and moved with deliberation to get Tennessee back into 
the Union — it was the first state to be readmitted. In 1869, after 
reelection and the strong opposition of Nathan Bedford For- 
rest's Ku Klux Klan with its desire to enfranchise ex-Confeder- 
ates, Brownlow resigned to become a United States senator. 

Brownlow was succeeded by De Witt C. Senter from McMinn 
County. Senter alleviated tensions by reestablishing civil rather 
than military courts and by advancing the cause of Confederate 
suffrage. Senter was successful enough that the Ku Klux Klan 
w r as ordered by its Grand Wizard to destroy its robes and dis- 
band. Because of his quick conciliatory actions, reconstruction 
in Tennessee did not go through the same kind of painful ex- 
periences common in most of the south. 

The Civil War 

Immediately following the events at Fort Sumter, frenzied 
activity began. In fact, Governor Harris probably had already 
executed a series of pacts with the Confederate leaders and had 
been actively recruiting soldiers in Middle and West Tennessee. 
Although most Tennesseans wore the Confederate gray, at least 
35,000 East Tennesseans joined the Union forces. 

The Confederacy would have profited greatly if the people 
of East Tennessee had come solidly into line. Because they did 
not, the South lost a large number of dedicated fighting men. It 
also had to contend with the continual victimization of a major 
north-south thoroughfare by secret agents, guerrillas, and — at 
the very minimum — many unfriendly farmers and merchants, 
whose daily harassment and inconvenience impeded the prac- 

McMINN 29 

tical movements of large masses of men. Some estimates have 
been made that, at any one time, between eight and ten thousand 
Confederate troops had to be kept in East Tennessee to manage 
public dissent. McMinn County, with perhaps a small majority 
of its own citizens in gray, was typical of the prevailing Union 
sentiment of East Tennessee. 

Fighting forces began to organize into infantry, cavalry, and 
artillery units. Sometimes units were organized over wide geo- 
graphical areas, but most fighting units were organized by local 
men who appealed to their friends and neighbors. In this way, 
it was not unusual for lifelong friends and relatives to fight to- 
gether throughout the war. Union companies, however, were not 
actually formed in the county until late in the war when its out- 
come was fairly well assured. 

Eight important Confederate units were specifically formed 
from within the county. Company A of the 3rd (Brazeltons) Ten- 
nessee Cavalry Battalion was organized on August 3, 1861, with 
James C. Bradford as major and J. A. Gouldy as captain. One of 
their first assignments was to go into Clay County, Kentucky, to 
a salt mine and get two hundred barrels of salt. In some respects, 
salt was as important to an army as bullets. This unit fought at 
the Battle of Fishing Creek, and was active later in the war 
throughout the Cumberland Gap area. Company B of the 16th 
Tennessee Cavalry Battalion was organized at Athens on May 31, 
1862, under the leadership of John R. Neal and E. W. Rucker, 
but little is known about this units activities. 

Company I of the 1st (Rogers) East Tennessee Cavalry Reg- 
iment was also organized within the county. The unit had a be- 
leaguered and lackluster war record which prompted Gen. Kirby 
Smith officially to record his belief that the large number of Union 
friends and relatives which members of this unit had rendered 
them ineffective in carrying out the demands of combat. One 
wonders if such a feeling might not have prevailed among many 
of the soldiers from the county. 

Willie Lowry and W. P. H. McDermott organized Company 
H of the 19th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. First fighting at 
Fishing Creek, the unit then faced major action at Vicksburg. 

30 Tennessee County History Series 

There they attempted a surprise attack through almost impen- 
etrable swamps. The suspected Union force turned out to be a 
hoax, but a major part of the regiment was lost or rendered in- 
effective by the terrible conditions. The unit suffered 94 cas- 
ualities out of a little over two hundred men at Chickamauga, 
but was still able to have said about it at Missionary Ridge and 
the retreat toward Atlanta: "The 19th was never once driven from 
any position to which it was assigned." After fighting in almost 
every major battle of the Army of Tennessee, only 64 men were 
left at the time of the surrender at Appomatox. 

Three other units also saw major action at Vicksburg. Com- 
pany F of the 39th (W. M. Bradford's) Tennessee Infantry Reg- 
iment, which was mustered at Mouse Creek on March 17, 1862, 
under Albartus Forrest and John C. Neil, twice took pleasure 
boats fitted with cannon and captured Union gunboats. At the 
end of the war, this unit was acting as a protective escort for Jef- 
ferson Davis. Company H of the 43rd Tennessee Infantry Reg- 
iment, which was organized at Riceville on November 16, 1861, 
fought with Jubal Early, participated in his raid on Washington 
in 1864, and counted 972 holes in its unit flag at Vicksburg. Fi- 
nally, three local companies, A, H, and K, of the 59th Tennessee 
Infantry Regiment, under James B. Cooke and John M. Van Dyke 
were described in official communications following Vicksburg: 
"During these 47 days, under the terrific fire of the enemy's ar- 
tillery and infantry, the officers and men bore themselves with 
constancy and courage. Often half-fed, and ill-clothed, exposed 
to the burning sun and soaking rain, they performed their duty 
cheerfully and without murmur." 

Twelve Union companies were formed in the county and as- 
signed to four different regiments. It should also be remem- 
bered that many from the county who fought for the Union did 
so by going North and joining forces from other areas. While 
the activities of the six companies of the 7th Tennessee Mounted 
Infantry Regiment will be detailed later, some mention of the 
activities of the other units has found its way into official war 

Company M of the 9th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment was 

McMINN 31 

mustered in Nashville on June 28, 1864. At one time in 1865 the 
unit was ordered to take and execute prisoners, especially if it 
was determined that they were guerrillas and bushwackers. Evi- 
dence suggests that, since they were operating in their own ter- 
ritory, they refused to carry out the orders with the severity 

Companies C, D, and I of the 10th Tennessee Cavalry Reg- 
iment saw extensive action in Middle Tennessee, especially against 
Generals "Fighting Joe" Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest. 
At one time they were in the saddle for eight days and nights 
against Forrest and traveled over two hundred miles fighting 
one skirmish after another. Finally, Companies A and D of the 
5th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment, which was mus- 
tered at Riceville, Calhoun, Cleveland, and Athens in October 
and November of 1864 under Spencer Boyd and James S. Brad- 
ford, saw limited action during the latter part of the war in 
northern Georgia. 

These units were engaged in a multitude of major conflicts 
and a continual series of smaller skirmishes. McMinn Countians 
were present at Shiloh, Manassas, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, 
Missionary Ridge, and Knoxville. They faced the finest generals 
and bravest troops on both sides of the conflict. The records speak 
of deaths, wounds, imprisonments, exchanges, and returns home. 

No major battles occurred in the county itself. At most there 
were small skirmishes that received little notice in the official 
reports. There were gun emplacements and bunkers on Depot 
Hill in Athens to protect the railroad station, and there is some 
indication that fights occurred at this spot from time to time as 
the town changed hands many times during the war. 

To assume from the absence of major battles that the county 
was relatively untouched by the war would be misleading. The 
cataclysmic impact that a movement of ten to twenty thousand 
troops through an area would have is hard to imagine. In ad- 
dition, fighting did not generally take place during the winter 
months and an entire region could become responsible for "win- 
tering" troops. The strain on the already meager food supplies 
and shelter was phenomenal. McMinn County was at the heart 

32 Tennessee County History Series 

of these kinds of activities, involving both Northern and South- 
ern armies, throughout the course of the war. 

Farmlands were ravaged, fences destroyed, spoils were taken 
on both sides, and individual fortunes that had been established 
since the first settlement were steadily depleted. The presence 
of the railroad line insured this, and concerns about protection 
or disruption of vital rail services kept troops in the area. In ad- 
dition, lawless hoodlums, termed "bushwackers," used the dis- 
organization of the war to carry out personal vendettas, 
plundering Unionist and Confederate alike. One of the worst of 
this type, a man named John P. Gatewood, was christened in 
legend "The Red-headed Beast from Georgia," and operated with 
a band of fifty Confederate deserters in this immediate area. 

The region was not burned over like Atlanta and southeast- 
ern Georgia. In fact, Gen. William T Sherman himself operated 
from the county for a period after the battles at Chattanooga 
and Knoxville and before his march to the sea. He used the Bridges 
Hotel in Athens as his headquarters and seemed to develop some 
real affection for the town. After the war the area was left drained 
and poor, and "reconstruction" would have to mean much more 
than political reorganization. 

The Van Dyke mansion, which still stands on the Maxwell 
White property overlooking Cedar Grove Cemetery, was also used 
by Sherman. This would have been the highest insult for the 
property's owner, T Nixon Van Dyke, who was the staunchest of 
Southerners. Van Dyke was an important judge, a central figure 
in the government of the Confederacy, and was imprisoned along 
with his wife for several years following the war. He refused to 
ask for a pardon and was freed only after other members of his 
family sought the intervention of President Andrew Johnson. 
Van Dyke, who refused to shave until the full independence of 
the Confederacy could be attained, is remembered as having a 
beard that finally had to be hung back across his shoulders. 

When Sherman arrived, he found the home occupied only 
by a group of women, all their husbands being off fighting in 
the Southern cause. He felt that Athens was no fit place for women 



The Van Dyke mansion, where Sherman stayed during the Civil War 

who were alone under the present circumstances of war and 
issued passes that allowed for passage through Northern lines 
to the home of kinfolk in Quincy, Illinois. 

Earlier in the war, a campfire had been spotted late one eve- 
ning on the hill at the top of the cemetery. Mrs. William Dead- 
erick Van Dyke climbed the hill to inquire about which army the 
soldiers represented. The reply that came back through the dim 
light: "Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, ma'am, at your service." 

Several examples can be given to help recall what daily chal- 
lenges the citizenry faced during the war. Protecting belongings, 
particularly horses and cattle, from the armies was a major prob- 
lem. My grandfather recalled that every time an army came near, 
he, a child of eight or nine years, was given the responsibility of 
taking the family mule to a hiding place that had been cut out 
in a nearby canebreak. This Moses-in-the-bullrushes tactic pre- 

34 Tennessee County History Series 

served something that may have been much more essential to 
the lives of the general population than any ideological allegiances. 

On a larger scale, the Wattenbargers who had a reputation as 
fine merchants of North Athens in later years, were known for 
their excellent stock breeding and trading during the war era. Leg- 
end has it that the family hit upon the tactic of keeping the best 
stock well-hidden and a blind mule and an old horse with a plaster 
patch on its back on public display. Soldiers would be told that this 
was all that was left of the stock, and that, in fact, the horse had a 
"strange infection" that they were having to treat. Usually the sol- 
diers did not stay around long to ask further questions. 

Not everybody tried to keep their stock from the military. 
Some of the finest cavalry horses used in the Civil War were foaled 
on the farm of the James T. Lane family of McMinn County. One 
particular unit, known as "Lane's Guards" and fighting as part of 
the First Tennessee Cavalry, CSA, carried combat banners sewn 
by Athens ladies. 

There was also the problem of noncombatants being "drafted" 
by armies as they moved through an area. Joe Hughes was a 
Unionist living in the Clearwater area. He had avoided conscrip- 
tion, like many in the area, to remain at home to care for crops 
and to protect his family. A large Confederate force moved from 
Kingston to Athens along the Old Kingston Road near his home 
and came too close. Hughes and two friends named Culvahouse 
and Woods decided that they could stay no longer. They walked 
to the Tennessee River in Meigs County, swam the river, and en- 
listed in the First Cavalry Company, USA, which was at the time 
camping in the region. 

The practice of "wintering" could bring large numbers of sol- 
diers and commanders. For example, the Union army camped 
at Athens in the winter of 1863, using the nearly-completed Keith 
mansion as headquarters. The commander carefully gave the 
influential Keiths receipts for any item his men used. Small log 
huts housing eight men each called "tents"were built throughout 
the present Epperson/Athens Community Hospital area. There 
were hundreds of these small buildings. 

The building called "Old College" in the heart of the present 



"Old College" on the Tennessee Wesleyan campus, which served as a 
hospital during the Civil War and now houses the McMinn County His- 
torical Museum 

Tennessee Wesleyan College campus, which now houses the 
McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, was used as a Con- 
federate hospital at one time during the war. Churches, academy 
buildings, and homes were regularly used to quarter troops; oc- 
casionally one army would burn a building when it left so the 
approaching army could not use it. 

The most notable events of the war related to the Hiwassee 
River Bridge at Calhoun. In fact, one of the first major events 
of the entire war occurred here. Federal forces realized that the 
river and rail systems in Tennessee were essential to any ad- 
vances by either army, and that the destruction of this bridge 
and several others like it — in much the way that Andrews' Raid- 
ers would do in the "Great Locomotive Chase" in North Georgia 
later in the war — should be given high priority in any war plans. 

36 Tennessee County History Series 

Lincoln himself was reported to have said that the destruc- 
tion of the East Tennessee railroad system, particularly the bridge 
over the Tennessee at Loudon and the bridge at Calhoun, was 
as important as the capture of Richmond itself. By mid-fall 1861 
he and Gen. George McClellan had approved the clandestine 
plan of Presbyterian minister William Carter to burn nine bridges 
in East Tennessee on the night of November 8, 1861. McClellan 
planned a major thrust into East Tennessee immediately follow- 
ing the completion of this mission to quickly control the area. 

While the guerrillas hid in the mountains and completed their 
plans, McClellan changed his mind at the insistence of Gen. Don 
Carlos Buell, who wanted to attack Middle Tennessee. Unaware 
of this, attempts at bridge destruction were carried out at several 
locations including the Hiwassee bridge. This group was led by 
A. M. Cate who lived in Bradley County, but had strong family 
ties in McMinn. Accompanying Cate were Thomas Cate, Eli 
Cleveland, Jesse F. Cleveland, and Adam Thomas. A. M. Cate 
had to walk 300 miles through the Tennessee mountains to es- 
cape into Kentucky and avoid the reign of terror which followed 
the burnings. 

Great fear spread throughout the state's population, martial 
law was instituted, dozens of people were arrested daily for sev- 
eral weeks, and there were several immediate executions. Many 
who were guilty of little more than fostering Union sympathies 
were marched off in the dead of winter to prisons in Georgia 
and Alabama. The Union plan had not taken into consideration 
the southerners' ability to rebuild and repair — the Hiwassee Bridge 
was operational within two weeks of the burning. In fact, the 
bridge burnings may have worked to the advantage of the South, 
as many people who had been undecided were frightened and 
joined the Confederate cause as the realities of war struck so 
close to their homes. 

The bridge was the site of a number of battles and skirmishes 
throughout the war. One major confrontation involved com- 
mands led by Gen. James Longstreet and General Sherman in 
the fall of 1863. To delay Sherman, Longstreet set fire to the 
bridge, which necessitated a river crossing. With Longstreet 

McMINN 37 

holding the high ground overlooking the river, Shermans cross- 
ing became a deadly affair. He stood on the river bank and cried 
out, "Recollect that East Tennessee is my horror." 

Following the Battle of Chickamauga, a second, major en- 
gagement involved forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest against 
Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Forrest paid dearly for a momentary 
success against Burnside and shifted his attention to Middle and 
West Tennessee for the remainder of the war. Finally, following 
the Battle of Fort Sanders at Knoxville, Gen. "Fighting Joe" 
Wheeler led 1500 men against Union Col. Eli Long, who was 
encamped near the bridge. Many of Wheeler s men advanced in 
a valiant saber charge and fought hand to hand. Long's superior 
troops were, however, victorious, and the last vestige of Confed- 
erate strength in Tennessee was broken. 

W r hile all of the events of the Civil War that involved McMinn 
Countians cannot be recounted, at least the activities of two rep- 
resentative units — one Confederate and one Union — can be ex- 
amined closely. 

Col. John C. Vaughns regiment, organized in Knoxville on 
May 29, 1861, became the third Tennessee group to be accepted 
into Confederate service. Assisting Vaughn was Col. Newton J. 
Lillard from Meigs County. The company mustered in McMinn 
County was led by Capt. Harry Dill. The formation of this unit 
afforded many young men from the county their first real op- 
portunity to join the Southern cause. 

The unit immediately left for the battlefront in Virginia, and, 
following several successful skirmishes, was involved in the First 
Battle of Manassas Junction in mid-July. Throughout the early 
part of 1862 the unit fought under Gen. Kirby Smith, and con- 
centrated their efforts in upper East Tennessee in the pursuit of 
guerrilla forces and bushwackers. Their next engagement was 
at Tazewell in early August against three Union regiments. Al- 
though outnumbered, the Tennessee forces were victorious in 
the battle. Following further successes at Cumberland Gap, 
Vaughn was promoted to the rank of general and Lillard com- 
manded the regiment until the end of the war. 

About this time Gen. U. S. Grant began to move against 

38 Tennessee County History Series 

Vicksburg, and several East Tennessee units were ordered there. 
They faced Grant's superior numbers at the bloody battle at Bak- 
er s Creek and, of 3800 who fought in this valiant attempt to 
secure the city from further attack, only 2000 returned to the 
trenches at Vicksburg. For the 44 days of the seige the unit was 
responsible for successfully holding three hill batteries. 

Following the surrender at Vicksburg, a period of intern- 
ment, and subsequent exchange, Lillard reorganized Company 
G in Charleston in early October. At this time they were up- 
graded to mounted infantry, and joined the forces of General 
Longstreet to fight at Knoxville. With the exception of the sur- 
render at Vicksburg, this was actually the first timethat they had 
been unsuccessful in pitched battle. From this moment on, the 
war became treacherous, as an except from a war diary quoted 
by Wilma Dykeman shows: 

We were so badly off for horse-shoes that on the advance we had 
stripped the shoes from all the dead horses, and we killed for that 
purpose all the wounded and broken-down animals. During the 
siege the river brought down to us a number of dead horses and 
mules, thrown from the town. We watched for them, took them 
out, and got the shoes and nails from their feet. Our men were 
nearly as badly off as the animals — perhaps worse, as they did not 
have hoofs. I have seen bloody stains on frozen ground, left by 
the bare-footed where our infantry had passed. For shoes, we were 
obliged to resort to the raw hides of beef cattle as temporary pro- 
tection from the frozen ground. 

Further fighting in the Shenandoah Valley and upper East Ten- 
nessee continued in the final months of the war. There were a 
few victories but many disasters. Company G's fighting spirit never 
dwindled, and while Lee was bringing the conflict to an end at 
Appomatox, they were camped nearby at New River ready to 
take up the fight when so commanded. Lillards own unit, in forced 
retreat and thinned by desertions, surrendered at Washington, 
Georgia, on May 9, 1865. 

In the latter part of the war, five companies of men were mus- 
tered at Athens as the 7th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regi- 
ment, USA. The regiment was stationed at Athens under the 

McMINN 39 

command of Majors John McGaughey and Oliver M. Dodson. 
Official records indicate that this unit participated only in the 
skirmish in Athens on January 29, 1865. George W. Ross, quar- 
termaster of the unit, described the action: 

We were attacked yesterday by 300 rebels of Vaughns, Wheelers, 
and bushwacker commands, and repulsed them from the town, 
but they captured some 20 or 25 of our men, including major John 
McGaughey. They retreated from the town in the evening and 
remained all night seven miles from here, and rumor says they are 
going to make another attack in connection with about the same 
force that came from Madisonville yesterday. 

An urgent request was sent to Knoxville for reinforcements, 
especially artillery units. The next afternoon, veteran soldiers 
arrived from Knoxville, and a somewhat different view of the 
situation was reported in the Civil War Centennial materials: 

The garrison of about 500 men were scattered through the town 
and the county, a greater portion of them having disappeared in 
the timber on the approach of the enemy the day previously and 
had not yet returned. From the best information, we have learned 
that about 200 guerrillas dashed into the place the day before about 
1:00 p.m., and that they were in the public square before the gar- 
rison knew it; that they remained three hours, and drew off at 
their leisure without doing any injury to the town. 

In March part of the regiment was ordered into the moun- 
tains east of Athens to patrol and guard the passes, and another 
group was sent to Clinton to help with martial law policing ac- 
tivities. Those who remained with the regiment were mustered 
out on July 27, 1865. 

In many respects, primary source materials from this period 
are almost nonexistent. To follow regiments is one thing, but to 
know the individual acts of gallantry and ultimate sacrifice is quite 
another. Beyond the regimental histories, countless individuals, 
for one reason or another, fought in dozens of other units that 
were mustered in places far removed from McMinn County; their 
stories have not even been touched. The frontline combat of the 
Civil War was horrific, and in addition to the outright battle deaths 

40 Tennessee County Histoyy Series 

thousands upon thousands died from infection, disease, star- 
vation, and weather The scars that remained were deep, and 
influenced political, family, and community differences over the 
next century. 

In spite of the scars, oneness of place and future brought 
about a peaceful and productive postwar coexistence. The words 
of the chronicler of Vaughns Brigade speak well of the Confed- 
erate spirit in defeat: 

The laying down of their arms, the striking of their colors, the 
disbanding of their military organizations, and the return of al- 
legiance to the Federal Govenment, were not the choice of these 
long-tried veterans so long as there was hope; but when their bu- 
gles were silent, their flag in the dust, their campfires gone out, 
and their oath of fidelity to the South cancelled by the issues of 
war, they were ready to resume their wonted position as citizens 
of the United States, not in a spirit of hostility, but with the patriotic 
desire to honor the Government protecting them. 

In the next half century a new generation rebuilt the county 
and brought it to new plateaus of accomplishment. The war 
proved one thing for certain — that these were people of vitality 
and courage who were willing to give whatever effort necessary 
for a place that had become much more than a temporary jump- 
ing off point for the next ridge to be climbed, the next river to 
be crossed, or the next frontier to be tamed. This vitality would 
be translated into new levels of progress in every aspect of com- 
munity development, and the foundations for the twentieth cen- 
tury would be laid. 

Industrial and Community Growth 

In 1951 Sir Eric Bowater of the English paper-making empire 
was concerned with expanding his worldwide operation to the 
United States. Calhoun was selected as the site of Bowaters'new 
American plant. The reasons that Calhoun was chosen in 1951 
were precisely the same reasons that it was important to the In- 
dians and first white settlers: excellent natural resources, cen- 
trality to transportation, and, most particularly, the abundantly 

McMINN 41 

available waters of the Hiwassee. Today, the Calhoun Bowaters 
plant is the largest producer of newsprint in the world, and one 
of a long list of mills in East Tennessee. 

The first mills to appear in the county ground corn and wheat. 
Later, the first cotton spinning mill in East Tennessee was erected 
on Mouse Creek in the 1830s by Ephraim Slack. An old news- 
paper report from that time states that the mill could do the 
work of 100 women laboring at spinning wheels. Ephraim Slack 
drowned in the mill pond a few years later and one of his sons, 
John, went on to become a leading newspaperman in the state. 

From about 1850 until the 1890s, when it was destroyed by 
fire, a spinning mill in the Mt. Verd area was one of the biggest 
industrial operations in the county. It was located to the left of 
the double bridges at Mt. Verd and was owned originally by 
Charles W. Metcalf. It came to be known as the McElwee Mill 
when that family took over its operation. 

This was the beginning of a textile industry which has con- 
tinued to thrive in the county with companies such as Chilhowee, 
Van Raalte, Crescent Hosiery, Athens Hosiery, and Beaunit each 
having its period of importance. Finally, in the late 1930s, the 
same resource that powered the mills was used by the Tennessee 
Valley Authority to produce electrical power with water-driven 
turbines. The industrial development of the county has always 
been closely associated with its multitude of water resources. 

One early mill was operated by the Saulpaw family one mile 
east of Calhoun at the spot where the Eastanallee Creek runs 
into the Hiwassee River. While the mill itself was torn down fol- 
lowing the TVA acquisitions in the area, the old dam still re- 
mains. The Saulpaws produced a popular brand of flour known 
as "Silver Queen." In the 1921 centennial edition of a now extinct 
publication called The Semi-Weekly Post, G. L. Saulpaw remarked 
that business was good, but that he had been at the work so long 
that "he would sell if a suitable buyer presented himself." The 
imposing Saulpaw grave marker in the old cemetery next to the 
Calhoun Baptist Church is one of the most elaborate in the county. 

An even more notable success was the Long family's opera- 

42 Tennessee County History Series 

The Long family's Athens Roller Mills 

tion of the Athens Roller Mill which continued on the Eastan- 
allee near the heart of the Athens business district until the most 
recent times. "Morning Glory Flour "and "Longs Perfection Self- 
Rising Flour" were as popular in their day as Mayfields milk is 
today. The Long milling operation later extended to other parts 
of the county. 

Mills quickly diversified with flume lines typically driving at 
least two turbines in the same mill. The Riley Thompson mill 
near Riceville was five stories high, and, in addition to the grist 
operation, housed the furniture shop of Hamilton Jarnigan. The 
machinery in Elisha Dotson's mill turned a saw for cutting tim- 
ber, powered wool and cotton carding equipment, and did the 
traditional corn and wheat grinding. A precursor of the "mill 
town" appeared near the Frank Gettys mill in the lower Eastan- 
allee valley, where a special type of cotton material called "duck- 
ing" was produced. Elliot Keith produced rag paper stock at 

McMINN 43 

Glenmore which was one of the first six paper mills operating 
in the state. 

The water-powered mills ultimately gave way to advanced 
technology. By 1901, for example, J. W. Trew operated a steam- 
powered cotton gin at Dentville east of Calhoun near the Polk 
County line. As late as 1968, thirteen bales of cotton were ginned 
here. The old Trew store continues today as a relic of a bygone 
era. One can move from one era to another by leaving the Bo- 
waters mill at Calhoun and driving 13 miles across to Highway 
411, through the Trew family settlement, and then to the old mill 
town of Pendergast, now called Delano. 

The era of the water-powered mill may be gone, but mem- 
ories of the beauty, the sounds, and the visible power of the old 
gears and turbines persist in the minds of the remaining few who 
experienced their operation. The humming whine and staccato 
clicking of the modern computerized factory pale by comparison. 

Nothing quite captures the old mill experience like J. A. But- 
terfields famous ballad "When You and I Were Young, Maggie." 
This is one of the best-known songs of the entire "country" music 
heritage, and interestingly enough had its antecedents in McMinn 
County. George Johnson was born on the Hiwassee and, while 
going to look for gold in the Unakas, came upon a mill along the 
present L&N line between Etowah and Reliance. There he met 
and later married Marrie Harris — "Maggie. "After living on the 
Hiwassee for many years, they returned to visit the old mill. Here, 
in a moment of inspired reflection, Johnson wrote the poem that 
later became the basis for Butterfield's famous song. 

The industrial expansion and accompanying population 
growth that reached beyond the time of the great water mills 
would have been severely handicapped had it not been for the 
appearance of railroads in the county. In fact, railroad construc- 
tion, from the development of the first important communities 
in the county outside of Athens and Calhoun, to the creation 
of the major railroading and community center at Etowah in 
1906, to the building of the 9.2 mile L&N spur to Bo- 
waters in 1961 which was the longest new track construction by 
L&N since the 1940s, has always been at the center of expansion 

44 Tennessee County History Series 

in the county. It should also be made clear that the railroad did 
not simply come to McMinn County by accident. It was because 
of the support of the general population of McMinn County that 
the first railroad construction project in Tennessee occurred here. 

The railroads were to an earlier time what interstate high- 
ways have been to the present time. This is no small considera- 
tion, especially when one compares the industrialization and 
growth of McMinn County to its neighboring county of Meigs 
which is still the only county in the state which has no rail line at 
all. Consider also the way that growth in McMinn County lagged 
behind that of Bradley County in recent years because of the 
longer time that it took for the interstate system to be completed 
in McMinn. In every respect, the decisions which brought the 
railroads into McMinn were of highest significance and the re- 
sult of enlightened and progressive minds. 

The story of the Hiwassee Rail Road, which became the East 
Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad and ultimately a part 
of the Southern Railroad system in 1894, is told in detail byjames 
Burn in The Daily Post-Athenian Sesqui-centennial Edition. 

One of the persons primarily responsible for bringing the 
first railroad through McMinn County was James Hayes Rea- 
gan, who was elected to the state senate in 1835. He was assisted 
in the legislature by John Miller, representing McMinn County, 
and Elijah Hurst, representing both McMinn and Monroe coun- 
ties. These men were later joined by R. C. Jackson, for whom 
Jackson Street in Athens is named (not Andrew Jackson as most 
assume). Jackson even went so far as to bring in Samuel P. Ivins, 
the county's first prominent newspaper man, to establish the Ath- 
ens Post for the primary reason of convincing the general pop- 
ulace, who would ultimately have to help with financing, on the 
idea of railroads. 

In addition to the accomplishments of these men and others 
who will be named, two other factors made the route through 
McMinn attractive. First, the area was not mountainous, and sec- 
ondly, there had already existed for some time a major stage 
route that ran from Dalton, Georgia, to Cleveland and then to 



J. H. Reagan, the 
guiding spirit be- 
hind the early rail- 
road development 

Athens. It then went to Greenback where there was a ferry cross- 
ing the Tennessee River, and beyond the river into Knoxville. 
Those who originated the railroad idea decided to follow this 
route from Dalton to Athens, but then head directly up the 
Sweetwater Valley (where Reagan had large land holdings) to 
Blair's Ferry (present-day Loudon), where goods and passen- 
gers could be ferried and carried on into Knoxville. 

In 1836 the Tennessee legislature approved a proposal by which 
the state would provide one-third capital funding, if two-thirds 
could be raised by subscription, to finance a railroad project. The 
Hiwassee Rail Road Company was immediately formed. The in- 

46 Tennessee County History Series 

itial plan was to sell 4000 shares at $100.00 per share by January 
1, 1837. 

By this time, however, only $120,000 had been raised, so six 
McMinn Countians — Asbury Coffey, James Fyffe, Alexander 
Keves, Onslow Murrell, Nathaniel Smith, and T. Nixon Van 
Dyke — personally secured the balance. The stockholders held 
their first meeting in Athens and elected Solomon Jacobs of 
Knoxville president. They ordered surveys conducted, rights- 
of-way secured, and a two-story headquarters building con- 
structed by the Cleages in Athens. The structure, referred to as 
the "Cleage Building" earlier, still stands next to the Federal 
Building on North Jackson Street. 

The stockholders first anticipated that the 98V4 mile proj- 
ect — figured at a cost of $11,500 per mile, including bridges over 
the Hiwassee at Calhoun and the Tennessee at Loudon — would 
cost $1,250,000. By mid-1839 work was halted. Almost $936,329 
had been spent, and all there was to show for it was a bridge at 
Calhoun, 66 miles of graded roadbed, and a partially completed 
iron manufacturing plant at Charleston which had been hap- 
hazardly conceived as a major money-saving enterprise to sup- 
ply the builders with their own spikes and rails. 

Because of a variety of legal and legislature actions, charter 
revisions, and new attempts at financing, work was not resumed 
until 1849. As a part of these revisions, the corporation became 
the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. Representative David 
Ballew and Senator William Cooke of McMinn County had worked 
diligently to bring the new charter into existence. Alexander Keyes 
was elected president, with T Nixon Van Dyke, W. F. Keith, and 
R. C. Morris among the directors. Officials held ground-break- 
ing ceremonies in Dalton in June of 1849 at the southern terminal. 

Work now proceeded quickly and without many problems. 
In fact, as each new mile of track stretched northward huge pub- 
lic fanfare, free barbeques, and inspired oratory were held — all 
designed to increase the already burgeoning public support. By 
February of 1852 tracks had reached Mouse Creek (present-day 
Niota), Sweetwater by April, and finally by July the river at Lou- 
don. In 1854, on property bought from the heirs of James 

McMINN 47 

Willson, Si., the ET&Ga built a depot at Mouse Creek, the old- 
est still in use in Tennessee. 

The northbound passenger train left Dalton at 2:30 p.m.; it 
was due at Varnells at 2:57, at Red Clay at 3:15, at Blue Spring 
at 3:42, at Cleveland at 3:54, at Charleston at 4:30, at Riceville 
at 4:51, at Athens at 5:15, at Mouse Creek at 5:35, at Sweetwater 
at 5:57, and at Philadelphia at 6:15. It was scheduled to arrive 
at Loudon at 6:35 p.m. The southbound train left Loudon at 4:00 
a.m. and arrived at Dalton at 8:30 a.m. An additional freight train 
ran from each terminal daily with a maximum of 20 cars loaded 
to 16,000 pounds (according to Burn, the amount carried by three 
freight cars today). 

In mid-1852 James Gettys of Athens received the contract to 
build the Loudon bridge. He employed George W. Saulpaw, a 
stone mason from the North, to build the piers; the superstruc- 
ture was subcontracted. By the middle of 1855 it was possible to 
go from Dalton to Knoxville by rail. The ET&G planned a grand 
"Railroad Jubilee and Fourth of July Celebration" and offered 
the celebrants a special $4.00 round-trip fare from Knoxville to 
Dalton. Although in 1851 Athens was designated the main center 
of operations, in 1856 under the direction of new president 
Campbell Wallace, the headquarters were moved to Knoxville. 
One can only speculate what McMinn County would be like to- 
day if it had become a major southeastern railway center. 

The role of the ET&Ga in the Civil War has already been 
mentioned. Senator Reagan, one of its founders, had been a Union 
supporter, but gave his final allegiance to his southern home- 
land. He was kidnapped late in the war by the Union army and 
held ransom for a northern prisoner being held in the South 
named Joseph Monroe. Efforts on both the northern and south- 
ern sides to secure his release were too slow, and Reagan died 
from the overexposure to the elements he experienced during 

Later generations of McMinn Countians watched huge steam 
engines and sleek diesels cover the lines surveyed and built by 
these pioneer entrepreneurs. The station at Athens finally met 
the same fate as passenger service, and its absence continues to 

48 Tennessee County History Series 

be mourned by those who used it as a point of reference for the 
entire community. Today, part of the old station has been incor- 
porated into the structures of the Tennessee Valley Railroad 
Museum in Chattanooga. 

Names like those of agents J. W. Fisher and Fred Snyder, en- 
gineers Charles Brackett, Buster Dunn, C. H. Henritze, and es- 
pecially their trains — "The Tennessean," "The Birmingham 
Special," and "The Pelican," which became famous in the first 
half of the twentieth century — still remain to recall a rich mo- 
ment in the county's heritage. 

During the 1890s the Knoxville Southern Railroad built a line 
that cut across the eastern side of the county and connected 
Knoxville to Atlanta by a new route, thus opening an almost en- 
tirely untouched section to the kind of commercial success that 
the ET&Ga had brought to the Sweetwater Valley. This second 
road soon merged with the Marietta and North Georgia Rail- 
road to become the Atlanta, Knoxville, and Northern Railroad. 
It ran from Knoxville through Monroe County to Tellico Junc- 
tion (Englewood), and ten miles south of the junction took an 
abrupt cut toward the spectacular Hiwassee River Gorge and 
then on to Marietta. 

In 1904 construction of a new line from this cut-off point 
south of Tellico Junction straight through to Cartersville was be- 
gun. The town of Etowah was established at this time and soon 
became the repair center and headquarters of the Atlanta divi- 
sion of what was by then a part of the Louisville and Nashville 
Railroad. By 1925 more than 2000 persons were employed at 
the Etowah operation and 21 trains (14 passenger and 7 freight) 
came through the Etowah station. The old station, which had 
been allowed to deteriorate, has recently been restored into a 
beautiful landmark. 

With the exception of renewed activity caused by World War 
II, the Etowah operation began to decline in the 1930s. The shops 
were oriented to repair wooden cars which became obsolete, and 
company headquarters were consolidated at Knoxville. Today, 
Etowah railroading activities primarily involve shipments from 
Copperhill and the large pulpwood and paper traffic associated 

McMINN 49 

with Bowaters. Many people in Etowah with close ties to the L&N 
still remember famous passenger trains of the early and mid 
twentieth century such as "The Southland," "The Georgian, "and 
"The Flamingo." 

Finally, in 1887, the Tellico Railroad Company was incor- 
porated to build a 22-mile line from Athens to Tellico Plains. 
This opened a relatively unexploited timber and mining area to 
rail service in a more profitable manner. The road was in op- 
eration a little over a year later. 

An important community grew up in 1870 two miles south- 
east of the place where the new Tellico line crossed the AK&N 
line at a place which became known as Tellico Junction. Jacob, 
James, and Mortimer Brient, who had already become note- 
worthy for establishing the Hickory Flat Roller Mills and the Jer- 
sey Herd and Dairy east of Athens, built several shops, mills, and 
houses to take advantage of the railroad construction. By 1907 
the locus of commerce had so completely shifted to Tellico Junc- 
tion that the Eureka Cotton Mill moved there, becoming the pri- 
mary establishment in town. The following year the community s 
name was changed to Englewood at the suggestion of Miss Nan- 
nie Chesnutt, sister of James Brient's wife, because it reminded 
her of the wooded home of Robin Hood she had read about as 
a child. In 1901 the Brients had joined J. W. Chesnutt in building 
a flour and feed mill called the Englewood Milling Company, 
and in 1917 Chesnutt joined with a Knoxville group to establish 
a hosiery mill, the Englewood Manufacturing Company. 

The terms "Yellow Top,""Socktown,"and "Onion Hill" still are 
important designations that came to describe the tenement com- 
munities of the Eureka, Englewood Manufacturing, and Engle- 
wood Milling companies respectively. As at Etowah, the Great 
Depression of the 1930s took a severe toll on Englewood industry. 

An uncredited article, "Gem of the Unakas," reveals a unique 
aspect of life in Englewood in the early 1920s: 

If we envied anybody, it would be the quiet, happy people of the 
splendid little city of Englewood. Her women, as well as the men, 
are wide awake business people. The women are playing an im- 
portant role in its development: a woman is the president of the 

50 Tennessee County History Series 

- - . - -'-■ ■ , 




White Cliffs Springs resort hotel 

Eureka Hosiery; a woman, Miss Sallie Smith, is assistant cashier of 
the Bank of Englewood and is also a member of the Board of Di- 
rectors; a woman, Mrs. Heath, runs the principal hotel; a woman, 
Mrs. Tallent, runs a first class boarding house; and women, Mrs. 
Chesnutt and her daughters, Misses Grace and Nannie, run a 600 
acre farm. 

The Tellico Railroad line itself prospered until 1911 when it 
was taken over by the L&N, which allowed this line to extend its 
operations to Athens. The train left Athens each morning at ten, 
made eight stops before reaching Tellico Plains, and then re- 
turned to Athens by shortly after four in the afternoon. In 1983 
the line from Englewood to Tellico Plains was abandoned. 

The most interesting stop may have been at White Cliff sta- 
tion where passengers made connections with carriages to the 
White Cliff Springs Resort on Starr's Mountain. Once a summer 
residence for the very wealthy similar to Lookout Mountain in 

McMINN 51 

Chattanooga, by the early 1900s an exquisite resort had been 
established. The mineral water springs and clear mountain air 
made it one of the most popular resorts in the nation. The first 
pike road — Mecca Pike — built in the county connected Athens 
with these springs. In 1914 the hotel went out of business and 
for a few years the resort operated as the White Cliff Club in 
which accommodations were owned by different individuals, 
much like todays condominiums. Several wealthy families from 
the county participated in this venture. 

Two conductors on the Tellico line gained a high reputation. 
M. M. Miller left the railroad to establish Miller Brothers De- 
partment Store in Etowah. J. W. Gregory worked for fifty years 
and retired in the late 1950s when passenger service on the line 
was eliminated. Another well-known personality was Etowah's 
Sid Garwood who served the L&N line as an engineer for many 
years. Garwood brought the first train into Etowah on December 
6, 1906. Garwood's two brothers were also famous L&N railroaders. 

The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of vigorous in- 
dustrial growth throughout the United States, and no better ex- 
ample could be found than McMinn County. There were 
numerous spinoffs of the railroads. For example, A. E. Walthall 
and F. O. Mahery established a crosstie yard that at one time was 
shipping one and a half million board feet of lumber per month 
to major railroads throughout the northern and eastern part of 
the country. 

Improved communications and transportation became signs 
of the time, and McMinn Countians took advantage of them. As 
early as 1888, Mr. and Mrs. T J. Long established a crude tele- 
phone system by stringing a long wire from their business across 
the street to their home; they used tin cups on each end as trans- 
mitters and receivers. In 1912 another progressive citizen con- 
tributed to the decline of the livery business by introducing the 
first taxi, and by the 1920s the Tennessee Coach Company had 
brought bus service to the county. But it was the railroads that 
rushed the county into the modern age. 

One of the most ambitious projects ever to begin in McMinn 
Countv involved the establishment, in 1887, of the Athens Min- 

52 Tennessee County History Series 

ing and Manufacturing Company. The grand scheme of the new 
company included a model industrial and residential commu- 
nity on 800 acres in the North Athens section of the city using 
the present Woodward Avenue as the main street. This involved 
street and utility construction and space for churches and rec- 
reation. Funds for the model city were to include at least the 
following: $100,000 to start a woolen mill; $100,000 to construct 
a cotton plaid mill; $90,000 for a cotton sheeting mill; $60,000 
for a cotton warp mill; $60,000 for a warp mill exclusively to 
produce jeans; $30,000 for a majestic hotel; $10,000 for a new 
public school; whatever was necessary for a new water system; 
and cooperation in the venture of a railroad to Tellico Plains. 

The original charter was signed by R. L. Bright, R.J. Fisher, 
F. W. McElwee, W. M. Nixon, George W. Ochs, A. C. Robeson, 
and John L. Young, Jr. Bright served as the first president, Fisher 
was the first general manager, and W. Gettys became the first vice 
president. The company was ambitiously constituted, to quote 
from its charter, for the following purposes: 

carrying on the business of mining for coal, copper, zinc, mica, 
iron, or other ore or mineral including the operation of quarrying 
for slate, limestone, or marble, and for sinking shafts or boring for 
petroleum, rock oil, salt water, or other valuable liquids hidden in 
the earth, and for the business of manufacturing any raw material 
by the aid of machinery into articles suitable for use as cotton and 
woolen factories, for making bagging and bale rope or iron bands 
for baling cotton, forming implements or other articles whether 
from iron or wood, and in general of carrying on of any other 
business properly coming within the definition of a manufactory. 

The company conducted an aggressive advertising cam- 
paign throughout the eastern United States. Prospective inves- 
tors received special railroad rates to come and see the property, 
and eventually people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Geor- 
gia, and Tennessee bought stock. In June of 1887, when the first 
lots were sold, $500,000 was supposed to be spent on the site 
within three years. The whole concept was an excellent example 
of American utopianism at its best. 

Unfortunately, for a combination of reasons, by 1889 the cor- 



R. J. Fisher, entrepreneur and inventor who 
brought the county national attention 

poration was in desperate financial circumstances, involved in a 
number of lawsuits, and faced foreclosure. Perhaps the most 
compelling problem was that many other communities across 
the nation were involved in similar projects and promised pay- 
ments by investors often did not materialize. In addition, Knox- 
ville and Chattanooga were more rapidly growing markets which 
lured good businesses away and were more attractive to pros- 
pective firms looking for new locations. An excellent example is 
the foundry and machine shop of George Wheland which was 

5 4 Ten > lessee Co u nty History Series 

established in Athens in 1868, but which moved to Chattanooga 
and continues to be a principal business of that city as one of 
the main suppliers of the auto industry in the Southeast. (The 
Wheland name descended from the ancient Anglo-Saxon 
mythological hero "Wayland the Smith" who was conceived 
to be the semidivine forerunner of iron workers.) 

R. J. Fisher, who established the first hosiery mill in Athens, 
brought the first bicycle to town, and became the first McMinn 
Countian to ride in an airplane, gained patents on a new type- 
writer concept that led to the establishment of the Fisher Type- 
writer Factory; however, since the business centers of the country 
were in the Northeast, the company moved first to Cleveland, 
Ohio, and then to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

In spite of the fact that the grand scheme failed, the area did 
become significantly industrialized, and factories and mills con- 
tinued to be an important aspect of the economy in this area into 
the modern age. Owners of the Athens Hosiery Mill quickly 
completed their part of the project and also built a considerable 
number of tenement dwellings; this mill remains. A furniture 
manufactory also started operations, and its traditions are con- 
tinued today by other companies in the same area of town such 
as Athens Bed Company, Athens Table Company, Carver Man- 
ufacturing Company, and McKeehan Chair. The water works 
planned in the original scheme became operational, making 
"Water Tank Hill" a focal point of the community. To keep pace 
with development in the area, city fathers were busy with street 

The crowning glory of the whole project was the mining cor- 
poration's hotel. The building, called "The Crand View Hotel," 
was a magnificent architectural achievement and along with the 
R. J. Fisher residence, on the present site of the First Baptist 
Church, represented the most advanced and aesthetically pleas- 
ing design of the day. The hotel, which was never actually com- 
pleted by the corporation, was ultimately sold to Grant University 
(the precursor of Tennessee Wesleyan College) in 1892 and was 
known as Parker College. The building was struck by lightning 


J) J) 


The R. J. Fisher home on the site of the present First Baptist Church 

on July 10, 1907, and burned in one of the most famous fires of 
the county's history. Either sarcastically or affectionately the 
building came to be known as the "Red Elephant." After it burned, 
John and Gus Kelley cleaned the bricks for 10^ per 100, and their 
father Joseph hauled them to the Tennessee Wesleyan campus. 
There they were used as an interior wall in a new construction 

In his short memoir Charles F. Keith, Jr., detailed what the 

56 Tennessee County History Series 



The Grand View Hotel, known as the "Red Elephant' 

city square of Athens looked like in 1870. Corners were typically 
given names related to long-term ownership or because of res- 
idences that had at one time existed on the particular sites. Al- 
though these names may be confusing to the outsider, natives 
continue to use them to describe locations. 

A hardware store owned by T. F. Gibson stood on the south- 
east corner of the square at the intersection of White Street and 
Madison Avenue. In later years, the busy Newton's Bus Station 
and Restaurant seved as a hub for travelers coming into the county. 
Across the street to the north, where for many years there was 
an A&P grocery store and in more recent years a variety of dis- 
count stores stood the residence and dry goods store of W. G. 
Horton. Beyond that on the longtime site of Cherokee Hadware 
Company was the three-story Bayless hardware store — this cor- 
ner was called the "Dewitt Corner." 

Continuing north and crossing Jackson Street the "Ballew 
Corner "was once occupied by a laundry and tailor shop run by 
two men named Levi and Chang; by 1870 the Hortons had a 

McMINN 57 

drugstore there which continued under family ownership until 
recent times. This corner is now a parking lot. 

West across Madison Avenue, where the Robert E. Lee Hotel 
stands today, was the "Henderson Corner"; before the hotel was 
built, it had been a stagecoach headquarters. The present hotel 
was built in 1926 by G. J. Lockmiller using some of the finest 
marbles available. "Slim" Armstrong was a thirteen-year-old 
bellhop and across the years became as much of an institution 
as the hotel itself. "Lizzie" Fisher had once had a hat shop on 
this site. 

Continuing along this side of the street, the next corner was 
identified with the McKeldin family. Will and John Horton had 
a dry goods store here, and in later years — before the shopping 
center era — Proffit's Department Store was highly successful. 

Across Washington Street on the site long occupied by the 
First National Bank was the "McGaughey Corner." There was a 
large tin shop here which reached back toward the present Tuell's 
Grocery, which has become something of a local landmark in 
recent years. The Forees came in later years and established their 
first medical practice on this block before moving, in 1930, to the 
city's first hospital, which they had built. 

Moving south across Jackson Street to the corner recently 
occupied by Woolworths, and once occupied by Riddles Drugs 
before it moved down the block and became Riddle and Wallace, 
was the location of Dutch Cunninghams Drugs. Above the 
drugstore was an exclusive private association, the Eastanalle Club, 
where the self-appointed business and professional elite of the 
community regularly convened. Many of the important political, 
social, and economic decisions affecting the community were made 
within the confines of this circle. 

Moving along to the site occupied by the Strand Theatre and 
Heird's Drugs was the "Atlee Corner," and across White Street at 
the old First Farmers Bank location was the "Grubb Corner." A 
large, open ditch, with several bridges and crosswalks, ran along 
the west side of White Street from Depot Hill to the Eastanallee 
Creek (the Indian spelling, Oostanaula, is often used today) and 
for many years was a source of great consternation to the citizenry. 

58 Tennessee County History Series 

Mule trading day in Athens before the turn of the century 

Finally, to the east across Washington Street on the "Crow 
Corner" was a meat and produce market run by Jim Crow and 
a grocery store run by his son, George. On down the block to the 
present Citizens Bank, where Miller s Department Store with its 
unique cable-and-cup money-carrying system once stood, was 
the "Crawford Corner." Yet another dry goods store and a public 
well originally occupied this location. 

Tradition says, according to Keith, that the McGaughey Cor- 
ner was the gathering place of those of Whig/Unionist senti- 
ments, and the Crawford Corner the focal point of old Democrat/ 
Confederate persuasion. On many occasions the air around the 
square was highly charged with political tension. It was not un- 
usual for tempers to become aroused and for blows to be struck. 
In a later generation, this same square erupted in a political ex- 
plosion which would be heard throughout the nation. 

Before the turn of the century a narrow gauge track ran from 
Depot Hill down present-day Jackson Street, turned left at the 

McMINN 59 

square, and ran on out toward where the First Baptist Church 
is today. The track stopped at what was then Tobe Getty's corn- 
field. George Brown operated the small car, which was pulled by 
a team of mules. 

Weston A. Goodspeeds biographical sketches in History of East 
Tennessee provide only brief glimpses, but leave little doubt that 
there were vigorous, intelligent, industrious, and ambitious peo- 
ple in the county after the Civil War. William Dixon came to 
McMinn County with 25£ and a suit of clothes; by 1886 he was 
worth $10,000. George W Foster, who "made himself quite fa- 
mous as a horse dealer," was a Republican and served with the 
Federal forces "during the late war." "He is not a member of any 
church, but believes in the Bible. His wife is a professor of re- 
ligion, but had not yet connected herself with any church." Wil- 
liam L. Harbison, after serving with the Confederate forces, 
returned to East Tennessee in 1869; "but as someone attempted 
to assassinate him, for safety he resided in Decatur and other 
points in Tennessee.... He returned to Athens in 1875 where he 
had a lucrative law practice.... The Harbisons are of Irish ex- 
traction and, without exception, Democrats. "James M. Hender- 
son, president of the First National Bank, represented the county 
at the constitutional convention in Nashville in 1865. James 
Howard Hood, who founded the McMinn Citizen newspaper, 
"advanced so rapidly in his studies that he passed examinations 
and became a public school teacher at the age of seventeen. "About 
1885 he left his teaching position to become the railroad station 
agent at Mouse Creek (Niota). James T Johnson was wounded 
in the hand at Fort Donelson, "and was saved from another by 
his cartridge box, which stopped a bullet." He was captured and 
imprisoned for seven months at Camp Morton in Indianapolis. 
By 1886 he was a "well-to-do farmer." J. H. Lusk "located in Ath- 
ens in 1879... and is one of the most popular and efficient sales- 
men in the county, where he is universally known and highly 
respected." The merchant Benjamin F. Martin was a self-made 
and highly respected man, who came to Calhoun with only a wife 
and a pony. Frank B. McElwee, who manufactured cotton goods, 
"belonged to the U.S. Army Secret Service and... at different times 

60 Tennessee County History Series 

piloted the Union Army through the mountains of East Ten- 
nessee. "James Oliphant, who was retired at the time Goodspeed 
wrote, began his medical practice with only $5, and by the be- 
ginning of the war was worth over $15,000. Joseph C. Rucker, 
well-known and enterprising farmer, "went to Nashville to join 
the Union Army, but decided to return home and protect his 
mother. "James P. Thompson, after one year of study under Dr. 
T.J. Evans in Charleston, was ready to practice dentistry, which 
he did for nine years. He was also a successful trader in livestock, 
mules and horses. James D. Williams, leading merchant and 
postmaster at Williamsburg, "began life a poor man, but by in- 
dustry and careful management has accumulated a fair portion 
of the worlds goods." He was a Royal Arch Mason, a Democrat, 
and a straight prohibitionist. William P. Willson, well-known and 
enterprising planter who owned nearly 520 acres, "has been a 
live and progressive man, but not ambitious for wealth." These 
detailed here, and others like them, gave to McMinn County the 
sweat of their brow and the strength of their hearts. 

A large number of individuals and businesses became firmly 
established in the county during the period immediately follow- 
ing World War I. The growing economy allowed for the creation 
of a professional and business establishment that served as the 
cornerstone for community growth over the next half century. 
A brief description of the leading businesses and professions, 
based on the 1921 centennial edition of The Semi-Weekly Post, is 
in order. 

Live Oaks Farms was the predecessor of the regionally well- 
known Mayfield Dairy Farms. A 1922 advertisement read: "T B. 
Mayfield and Son are among the best farmers of the 
county.... Cattle Tuberculine Tested — dairy products from tu- 
berculine tested cattle should command your first consideration, 
and its importance cannot be overestimated." The Mayfield op- 
eration also included the sale of cattle, horses, mules, and "fa- 
mous" Berkshire hogs. 

In 1928 F. O. Mahery, Sr., who had been involved in the 
Walthall and Mahery lumber and crosstie operation, took over 
leadership of the Athens Stove Works which had opened in 

McMINN 61 

Mayfields Dairy Farms — perhaps the best known business in the county 

1924. In the 33 years of Maherys presidency, the company 
moved from wood and coal stoves to gas in 1932 and electric 
in 1956. The company motto, "Vesta Stoves for Better Living 
— Everywhere, "became a national slogan. 

After it introduced a new tractor plow invented by Jay 
Stevenson, who worked for McMinn Motor Company, the Ath- 
ens Plow Company became a major industrial concern in the 
county. E. L. Willson, its president, established himself as a key 
leader in the local business community. In the mid-1940s J. H. 
Taylor moved from Athens Plow to produce his own farm equip- 
ment inventions at Taylor Implement Manufacturing Company. 
The Dennis Foundry did much of the casting of heavy metal for 
the local industries. 

The Athens Furniture Company, which became Athens Ta- 
ble and Manufacturing Company, was owned by the Hoback 
family. Carl, Richard, and Sarah Bayless were instrumental in 
the company's operation. The Post chronicler said of Sarah that 
"her untiring interest has proven how valuable the services of a 
woman may become." 

The success of the Athens Hosiery Mill resulted from the 
creativity and genius of R. J. Fisher, Sr. His sons: R. J. 5 Jr., who 
had strong design and technical expertise, and Ed, whose ca- 
maraderie with the mill employees is still well-remembered in 

62 Tennessee County History Series 

North Athens, later managed the firm. The mill became famous 
for its "Spartan," "Takoma Pear," and "Maid of Athens" brands 
which were distributed throughout the world. The products of 
this mill were probably the first to represent McMinn County 

There were three drugstores in 1921. The Horton family had 
been important to the business development of the county al- 
most since its inception, and Joe Horton had operated Horton 
and Sons Drugs, with his son Glen, for 48 years. The Post writer 
was correct in saying that Miles A. Riddle in eleven years had 
built "a business which will remain one of Athens' greater insti- 
tutions during the years to come." Ed Heird, who was from Meigs 
County, worked for Riddle and later opened his own drugstore 
on the same block. Of the Julian Pharmacy, which no longer ex- 
ists, the Post rhapsodized: "his soda jerker juggles a wicked glass. 
His fountain dispenses all the frozen and semi-artistic dainties 
usually found in a metropolitan palace of sweets, which causes 
the cash register to tinkle merrily." 

There were a large variety of general merchandise and hard- 
ware stores which by the early 1920s had begun to develop spe- 
cialties. The J. W. Colston Store had been in operation since 1894. 
The J. Nat Moore Hardware was the leading name in feed and 
seed sales in the county for many years. Today, it specializes in 
home appliances. Bayless Hardware had just added a furniture 
and music department, and Lackey Hardware, with Leuty Owen 
as its main clerk, had begun to sell Buick automobiles. Lackeys 
full-page Christmas ad offered the chance to win a 75-piece din- 
nerware set worth $65.00, a considerable amount for that time. 

Ford vehicles were sold by McMinn Motor Company which 
continues to exist. The dealership was led by Cyril Jones, brother 
of the important political figure Clem Jones, and Hugh Lowery. 
Marshall J. Keith sold Chevrolets and Studebakers at Athens 
Motor Company. Gasoline for these automobiles was provided 
by Dixie Filling Station where, according to the Post, W. E. Clark 
"exchanges the product of John D. for the product of the United 
States Mint." The big selling feature was "visible gas" and the 
company carried Mansfield, Silvertown, Oxford, and Rem- 

McMINN 63 

ington tires. R.J. Haley Rubber Company sold tires and vulcan- 
ized its own rubber. 

Insurance companies were popular during this period. Dod- 
son Insurance Agency, the oldest in the county, was founded by 
William Calvin Dodson in 1899 and operated until 1968 under 
the able and memorable direction of Frank Dodson. It was re- 
cently merged into the Athens Insurance Agency. L. H. Hoback, 
one of the best-known music directors in the region, and C. F. 
Keith, Jr., the ranking major of the state national guard, also 
headed insurance agencies. 

J. H. Neil, father of the well-known Joe Wheeler Neil, op- 
erated a grocery store at the corner of Jackson and Washington 
Street for many years. D. B. Shoemaker and his wife Marie, a 
war bride from France, opened a grocery business which was so 
successful the store building itself fell in because of the weight 
of the stock that had to be kept on hand. Bud Steed operated 
the first "chain" grocery with two locations in the county. In the 
1960s, in spite of the entrance of national grocery chains into the 
community, Alfred McKeehan started a local store which even- 
tually had branches in most of the counties of southeast Tennessee. 

In addition to the clothes that were sold in the general mer- 
chandise stores, specialty apparel shops were established. Owen 
and Company was highly visible for many years on the square 
in Athens. James Cravey, a salesperson, later opened his own dry 
goods store. Kate Fox operated a hat shop (a millinery), and the 
Smith Bootery claimed to be able to "fit the pedal extremities of 
either Cinderella or Goliath." In 1915 Morris Goodfriend be- 
came the first important Jewish merchant in the county. The 
Goodfriend name continues to be identified with the finest in 
mens wear. In later years Simon Monen continued the tradition 
of excellent Jewish business establishments in the community. 

The First National Bank, established in 1872, came to prom- 
inence with leaders such as J. M. Henderson, James Hornsby, 
R. M., R. J., and James G. Fisher, Clem Jones, and S. F. Gettys. 
The former downtown branch building had just been completed 
in 1921 and was the showplace of East Tennessee according to 
the local promotions. In 1938 Pat Love came to Athens from 

64 Tennessee County History Series 

Morristown and bought controlling interest in the First Farmers 
Bank from Tom Sherman. On May 1, 1940, he assumed presi- 
dency of the bank and, along with his brother Founta, operated 
the well-known institution until 1968. The bank was eventually 
sold to a group of businessmen from Memphis who were backed 
by the First National Bank of that city. 

Finally, there were several highly specialized businesses which 
were doing well during the postwar period. The Strand Theatre, 
which was called "The Palace" until 1916 and was the first movie 
house in the county to succeed, continued in operation until about 
1980. W. W. Padgett Marble Company sent exquisite Tennessee 
and Georgia marble throughout the world. Coming from a far 
corner of the world for that day, Dr. J. A. Saliba of Betargin, 
Syria, opened a sanitorium on the site of the present Hammer- 
Johnson Supply Company. The hospital was in the Blizzard House, 
a mansionlike building across the street from the Monday House, 
another local hotel. 

Of the varied material in The Semi-Weekly Post special edition, 
the description of the Athens Steam Laundry is the most unfor- 
gettable. Under the heading "Let Her Live a Little Longer "and 
the subheading "Olliker Walliker, Olliker Rocks, Let the Laun- 
dry Wash Your Socks," the business of the youthful, enterprising 
Cecil Martin is thus saluted: 

When the average resident of Athens learns that the wife's energy, 
effort and muscle is worth considerable more than the dime nec- 
essary to "get the laundry to do it," and that sanitation as a general 
thing is a minus quality in the laundry of "Aunt Diana," and that 
the Athens Steam Laundry employs no chink to squirt and spray 
the water through his nose over the delicate kerchief and the but- 
tonless night shirt, then and then only will the business of the Ath- 
ens Steam Laundry pick up, materially. 

In 1921 the object of the greatest excitement in the county 
was the work on the state's first concrete highway which was being 
constructed from the Hiwassee River north to Athens. The pav- 
ing of streets in Athens to join with this modern Lee Highway 
became a source of great civic pride. 

The first highly mechanized equipment used to work county roads. In 
this 1923 photograph the caterpillar is pulling a road grader. 

The rock for the highway project was dug and crushed at the 
present site of Knox Park. A short section of the road still exists 
from the city of Calhoun to U.S. Highway 11. As a young man 
in his early twenties, my father, Bob Byrum, was employed by 
the state to test the concrete. This involved drilling out a core 
every fifty feet, with each new hole one foot over from the pre- 
ceding one. It was undoubtedly a laborious process to follow this 
pattern the 14 miles from the Hiwassee River bridge to the Ath- 
ens city limits. The road-builders were making history, and there 
was always a curious and inquisitive group of onlookers to help 
pass the day. 

In 1933 J. M. Sharp published a personal memoir entitled Rec- 
ollections and Hearsays of Athens Fifty Years and Beyond which consti- 
tutes the most detailed historical recollection of McMinn County, 
and particularly Athens, to date. Sharp had been involved in a va- 
riety of occupations that included teaching school and delivering 
newspapers. He had a distinct flair for words and, in addition to 
his historical material, had published poetry and a booklet entitled 
"Letters to the Man in the Moon." Sharps record provides at least 
a glimpse at important figures between the wars. 

66 Tennessee County History Series 

During this particular period the community probably had 
as many physicians as at any time in its history. Dr. J. R. Nanki- 
ville was the oldest doctor in town and, in addition to his medical 
work, contributed immeasurably to the advancement of edu- 
cation in the area. Dr. J. L. Proudfoot (who had practiced from 
a house on the Eastanallee between the present Cooke Box and 
Mayfield's) had just died and the community had given his family 
a house so that they could remain in Athens. Dr. J. O. Foree, who 
had established a clinic, had passed from the scene but his two 
sons, Ed and Carey, were carrying on in the hospital they estab- 
lished in 1930. Dr. L. W. Spradling was well-known for his avo- 
cations; he was a mechanic, writer, and landscape painter, and 
according to Sharp "an all around versatile genius, a ra- 
diator of sunshine." Drs. Ross Arrants, Brock, Dubois, Roy 
Epperson (who opened a second hospital in January of 1936), 
and Janeway completed the list of physicians. In addition to 
these men, Dr. G. W. Stanton had become popular as the 
physician identified with North Athens. 

The primary building material of the period was wood, so 
lumber yards and building supply houses were important. Tom 
Sherman, who may be the richest man in the county's history, 
and Mel Hammer owned the Sherman-Hammer Company. Hugh 
and Charles Hoback operated the Athens Planing Mill; the 
Duckworth Planing Mill was also prominent. Furniture was an- 
other necessity so the Johnson and McSpadden families entered 
the county business community in the time between the wars; 
both continue to be prominent. Among the attorneys repre- 
sented were Judge S. C. Brown and E. B. Madison who had been 
in the area for the longest period of time in 1933. H. M. Chan- 
dler, in addition to his legal activities in the county, had served 
24 years in the state legislature; Jimmie Clark and Tom Taylor 
had each been in the legislature for one term. Clem Jones and 
R. A. Davis became prominent because of their involvement with 
both the Southern and L&N railroads. Among the younger men 
in the profession were Paul Stewart and R. N. Ivins. 

Among the teachers mentioned by Sharp were Professor 
J. C. Ridenour, who had been principal at Forrest Hill School 

McMINN 67 

for eighteen years, and Professor J. H. Walker, who had been 
principal of North Athens School. Mrs. Laura Sliger and Annie 
Sliger taught for many years in the city school system. 

ADeSoto-Plymouth Agency opened under the management 
of Mitchell Hanks and J. M. Millard; Mooney Tallentand Dillard 
Brown worked here. Another garage was operated by the Wil- 
kins family. Mrs. R. J. McKeldin was the local florist and there 
were two undertakers, that owned by Harry Evans and the new 
Quissenberry and Forrest. Sharp concluded his list of luminaries 
by remembering his own colleagues, the paper carriers, about 
whom he said: "We carry papers to the palace of the rich and the 
hovel of the poor, and thus we help the knights of the quill." 

Industrial and community growth in the county was not con- 
fined to Athens. Tobe Gettys, who owned a woolen mill south of 
Riceville, constructed a depot on the Southern line and named 
it "Sanford" after a prominent Knoxville family. This small com- 
munity was also the home of a large business in the production 
and shipment or railroad ties. Meanwhile, by the early part of 
the twentieth century, the names of Bolen, Henry, and McAlister 
had become important in Calhoun business circles. Dr. H. F. 
Taylor, who served a good deal of the county from his office 
in Calhoun, cannot be omitted. 

The names of Bishop, Erickson, Oliphant, Parkinson, Porter, 
Swafford, and Womac came to be of lasting important in Rice- 
ville. The remains of the old Porter house (recently gutted by 
fire) still stand south of Riceville on U.S. Highway 11. Charlie 
Miller restored the house and used the land to develop one of 
the largest pedigreed Angus cattle farms in the state. 

Charles Rice, founder of the town, organized a train of 50 
wagons and moved to Arkansas in 1859. C. W Oliphant clerked 
in the store that Rice sold to a relative, and later established his 
own mercantile business before selling out to J. M. Lockmiller 
and becoming a famed salesman. Dan Roberts became an im- 
portant business figure after expanding a drugstore into a gen- 
eral merchandise enterprise in 1897. Ben Bishop had a wagon 
shop in the earliest times and was assisted by Charlie and Dave 


Tennessee County History Series 

Dr. J. A. Parkinson of Riceville in 1900. Note the produce on his wagon 
which he has received as payment. 

Boyd, the latter a well-known blacksmith for over 65 years. Charlie 
Boyd gained fame as an inventor of a variety of tools and ma- 
chines. Bill Vaughn operated a tanyard, and his son, along with 
the Vincent family, gained a name for creating fine furniture. 

Although relatively small since its incorporation in 191 1, with 
H. A. Collins as the first chairman of the city commission, Niota 
has always been considered a well-established and progressive 
town. The persons who have come to be of significant influence 
in the Niota community since the turn of the century have inev- 
itably risen to places of importance in the county and, in fact, in 
the state as a whole. 

Niota began as a station of the ET&G Railroad before the 
Civil War, known as Mouse Creek. H. L. Schultz developed a 
community by selling building lots. The first industry of any con- 
sequence was a tanyard started by Eli Dixon, Jr. The "Tan Yard" 
changed hands until 1879 when it became the property of 
Samuel P. Blair. By this time, the community had grown and 

McMINN 69 


The Mouse Creek/Niota depot in 1905. Pictured here, from left, are 
H. B. Burn; J. L. (Jack) Burn; W. A. Burn; J. L. (Jim) Burn, Depot 
Agent; James P. Lewis; and John I. Forrest (on horse). 

boasted of one of the best-known educational institutions in 
the area, Mouse Creek Academy. 

Blair is also remembered for his aid in establishing the Cum- 
berland Presbyterian Church in Niota. The casting of a church 
bell was always significant, and Blair, with three others, paid for 
this undertaking. The names of the "Four Bs"were inscribed on 
the bell: Blair, Brock, Buttram, and Burnes. It is ironic, given 
the important role that the Burn family played in the history of 
the community, that the bell makers incorrectly spelled their name 
on this artifact that now hangs in the Methodist Church steeple. 

Unfortunately, Blair eventually experienced financial disas- 
ter. In 1913, in a foreclosure sale, most of his Niota holdings were 
bought by James L. Burn and W. F. Forrest for the Crescent Ho- 
siery Mill which they had organized to give employment to mem- 
bers of the growing community. 

The Crescent mill became a central fixture of the community. 

70 Tennessee County Histoiy Series 

The first stockholders included several members of the Burn 
family, Forrest, J. C. Gate, T.J. Isbell, and H. M. and R. S. Will- 
son. H. M. Willson became the first president and J. L. Burn was 
the vice-president. W. L. Forrest managed it until the 1930s. In 
later years Hugh Willson, grandson of H. M. Willson, became 
the head of the Citizens National Bank, a thriving institution in 
the county. The Forrest family name was carried on by the 
J. Ben Forrest Hardware and Furniture Company. The family 
of the first city commission chairman, H. A. Collins, became in- 
volved in a successful feedstore and the advancement of edu- 
cation in the community. 

The other central fixture in the community's growth and de- 
velopment has been the Bank of Niota. In fact, Dun andBradstreet 
(1920) described the village as "a banking town." The bank was 
organized the same year that the town was incorporated. 
J. L. Burn served as the first president and H. M. Willson was 
the vice-president. C. B. Staley became cashier in 1913 and re- 
mained with the bank until his death in 1971. 

Niota provides a good example of one aspect of the devel- 
opment of many communities throughout the nineteenth and 
early twentieth centuries — fires. Because of the lack of water sys- 
tems, it was not uncommon for fires to destroy important build- 
ings and to devastate entire towns. Niota seems to have had more 
than its share. The entire business section burned in 1897, an- 
other fire destroyed a major business in 1910, and a section of 
the business district was again destroyed in the late 1920s. As late 
as 1966, fire continued to play havoc with the town when its ma- 
jor industry, Crescent Mill, burned. 

Athens experienced the same disasters time and again. Many 
citizens can recall the Red Elephant Fire, the first high school 
fire in the late 1940s, the loss of the original Keith Memorial 
Methodist Church, the second high school fire in the 1950s, and 
the burning of the beautifully restored and meticulously re- 
modeled county court house in 1964. 

To return to Niota, the way that its name was determined is 
intriguing. Originally called "Mouse Creek," there was continual 



The county courthouse after its remodeling and before it was de- 
stroyed by fire 

confusion of mail and freight with a "Mossy Creek," present-day 
Jefferson City. When ice cream for a local celebration ended up 
melting on the loading dock at Mossy Creek something had to 
be done. According to James Burn, a local railroad agent had 
suggested "Movilla" since the Morse code station call letter "MO" 
would not have to be changed. Several local citizens sent their 
ideas to the railroad superintendent; John Boggess's suggestion 
was included just as the train to carry the dispatch envelope ar- 
rived. Boggess's suggestion of Niota, which was supposedly the 
name of an Indian chief in a novel he was reading, was selected. 
Burn also recalls that the original pronunciation was "Nee-o-tah." 
Niota became the social center for the entire county with the 
establishment of Springbrook Golf and County Club which, for 
many years, was the only facility of its sort in the area. The coun- 
try club has continued to be the center of the social and recre- 

Tennessee County History Series 

The Etowah YMCA Building as it stood in the early 1900s to welcome 
the influx of railroaders 

ational activities of the county's business, professional, and political 

Etowah came into existence because of the L&N Railroad. 
The railroad at first had tried to purchase lands for major shops 
and a terminal at both Tellico Junction and Wetmore but, failing 
to do so, it ultimately bought nearly 1500 acres from the farms 
of Joseph Cobb, James L. Cooper, William Paris, William T. Peck, 
Robert Reynolds, and Robert Smith for $20 per acre. News of 
the creation of a new town immediately brought an influx of 
businessmen from all over the South. Soon the whole area was 
alive with activity; by April 8, 1909, when the town was chartered, 
it had officially taken up the railroad construction crew's name 
of "Etowah" (meaning "muddy waters"). 

The town was laid out in a grid pattern with avenues named 
for states running north and south, and numbered streets run- 
ning at right angles to them. The first construction became Ten- 
nessee Avenue and this thoroughfare, joined with U.S. Highway 



Tennessee Avenue in Etowah immediately after the L&N established 
the town. The arrow designated the famed "Blue Front." 

411, has become the main business district. The first businesses 
were established to take care of the construction crews and later 
railroad workers. John Rains put up a small shanty near the new 
tracks which served as both a store and Etowah's first post office. 
J.N. Lewis, who had operated a store at Grady three miles north 
on the L&N, moved to Etowah with the new tracks and became 
a leading businessman. The Etowah Enterprise, an excellent pub- 
lication later edited by Frank McKinney, was first published on 
January 5, 1907. 

The first major businesses that involved large-scale construc- 
tion were the hotel-boarding houses that sprang up throughout 
the town — the Ownbey Boarding House, the Carlock Hotel, the 
Risk Hotel, the Glenora Hotel (named for Glen Froneberger and 
Ora Nichols, daughters of the first owners), the Hotel Stafford, 
the Mountain View Hotel, and the Tennessee Hotel. The Hotel 
Stafford outlasted all the others. The L&N YMCA was a land- 
mark from 1908 until 1929; it was the site of all kinds of com- 

74 Tennessee County History Series 

munity affairs from town meetings to evangelistic rallies. The 
Glenora Hotel was distinguished because of its cigar factory. 
"Glenora Cigars" were made by N. G. Dixon. 

The first general store was opened by Lewis' partner, O. L. 
Davis, and was followed by similar stores run by E. A. Adams, 
McKinney Brothers, M. M. and H. H. Miller, Reed Brothers, and 
H. D. Rule and Company. AJ. C. Penney Company store came 
later. A store called "The Blue Front" became one of the best 
known locations in the city. It was an extremely important meet- 
ing place for the community, and several churches and fraternal 
groups were organized and met there. 

Other early businesses included: a furniture store, Sterchi 
Brothers and Tillery, which arose from the partnership of the 
Knoxville-based furniture company and J. M. Tillery; Carl Cen- 
ter and N. C. Powell's hardware store; O. A. Rule Furniture 
Company; and Cunningham and Watts Livery. Hugh Manning 
established the Gem Theatre (later the Martin) in 1918, and stayed 
to become one of the leading citizens in the town's early history. 

P. A. Kinser opened the first drugstore in Etowah, which later 
became Gem Drugs, Charles E. McConkey moved from Monroe 
County in 1908 to organize Etowah Drugs, and B. M. Tallent 
Drugs opened in 1923. Frank Rutledge came to town in 1909 
from Tullahoma to work in the Etowah Bank and Trust Com- 
pany; he later established an insurance company and the Etowah 
Water and Light Company. Alex Adams and his son, Stacy, opened 
an early men's store. 

Lawmen were also needed, and following S. H. Vandivere, 
who was known as the "town marshall," several law officers have 
become noteworthy. Foremost among these are Burch E. Biggs, 
who also became an influential political figure in the history of 
Polk County, and C. O. (Bull) Kennedy. Otto Kennedy, his brother, 
also became a well-known law officer. 

Hardly any business could have taken better advantage of a 
"boom town" environment than a lumber company. R. L. Tucker 
established the Etowah Lumber Company in 1910, which was 
later sold to the Cantrells, helping to make them one of the most 
influential families in town. Their banking and political inter- 

McMINN 75 

ests, particularly those of Paul Cantrell, lent them particular 

Because of the sudden influx of railroaders and business- 
men, Free Masonry played an important role in the town. By the 
late 1920s, there were more than half a dozen Masonic bodies 
and an extremely active chapter of the Order of Eastern Star. At 
one time Etowah had the largest Masonic membership for a town 
of its size in the entire nation. M. L. Bryan served as the first 
worshipful master of the Etowah lodge, and Retta Bryan, his 
wife, was the first worthy matron of the Order of Eastern Star. 

A number of well-known names in Etowah's history have been 
those of attorneys. The first permanent lawyer was Eugene Ivins 
who was the first city attorney. The Ivins' name has long been 
important, with Dan Ivins having served as town recorder for 
many years. D. W. Lillard, a hero of World War I, came from 
Decatur to practice for several years. Donald Todd, who would 
ultimately establish Green Hill Cemetery, came to the city in 1910 
to practice law. 

A large number of local youngsters became attorneys and 
established their practices in the city. These included Shields 
Cagle, William M. Dender, Sam Gilreath, C. B. Stanberry, Amzy 
Steed (who later became general counsel for the Texaco Oil Cor- 
poration), and Knox and Nell Williams. Cousins Ralph Duggan 
and Tom Taylor established practices in Athens and both became 
important following World War II. 

Two of the first physicians in Etowah were W R. Froneberger 
and J. O. Nichols. They were keen businessmen and, in addition 
to their medical practice, each established a drugstore — the Gem 
and Rexall respectively — and jointly established a hotel. Other 
early physicians were H. E. Center, E. M. Foreman, and Olin 
Rogers. Early dentists were E. M. Akins, G. L. Keith, W S. Moore, 
and L. C. Ogle. W R. Anderson and E. R. Battle later came to 
town and practiced for many years. 

Not until 1929 did Etowah get its first hospital. Dr. R E. 
Parker from Sweetwater built a two-story hospital on Fifth 
Street which did well until the Depression when it closed. Dr. 
Spenser McClary, who had moved his practice to Etowah in 

76 Tennessee County History Series 

1925, reopened the hospital in 1935. He and his son, Boyd, 
operated it until the beginning of World War II when Boyd 
entered the service and his father died. 

Upon his return from the war Boyd McClary, with Homer 
Johnson and others, began to seek funds for a modern hospital 
in Etowah. Their dream and dedicated work finally were suc- 
cessful in 1965 when the Hill-Burton Act funded the construc- 
tion of the Woods Memorial Hospital. The hospital was named 
for the parents of George Woods, a local political leader who had 
been instrumental in procuring the funds that were finally 
approved for the building project. 

One important community landmark is the city library. The 
Carnegie Foundation offered grants before the second world 
war for the establishment of free public libraries in new com- 
munities such as Etowah. A group of citizens including T A. Ab- 
ner, A. B. Bayless, C. D. Bevan, N. Z. Dewees,John M.Johnson, 
and Haywood York obtained a grant that resulted in Etowah's 
having the only Carnegie Library in southeast Tennessee. Until 
1922, while a new educational plant was being constructed, the 
local high school held classes in the library. 

In many respects, Etowah is still a young town, not yet close 
to a centennial celebration. Many of the old buildings that or- 
ginally constituted the business district still stand, and there seems 
to be a community spirit of preservation that has been lacking 
elsewhere in the county. Many beautiful homes still stand along 
tree-lined avenues — sometimes like a scene from some idealized 
past. One can only imagine what Etowah might have been like 
today had the Depression not occurred and the L&N not de- 
cided against reequipping the wood-car repair shops to repair 
metal cars. 

The Black Community 

Unfortunately not much attention has been paid to the de- 
velopment of the black community in the county and much in- 
formation has been lost. While that which is recalled here is 
certainly incomplete, it is fortunate that a central figure of the 

McMINN 77 

black community of the county, Professor W. E. Nash, was still 
alive at the time of this writing. Not only are Professor Nash's 
recollections an important source of historical information, but 
his own life story is a high light of the county's history. 

Nash was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1887; by 
the time he was eight he had been hired out by his mother as a 
waterboy carrying water to field hands working on large farms. 
The first year that he worked he earned his food and a few clothes; 
the second year, he earned $9 and $12 the third. By the time he 
was sixteen, he was earning $40 a year, and had begun to drive 
freight wagons. 

Nash had always had a desire, encouraged by his mother, to 
get an education. Undaunted by what many might consider a 
late start, he left home in 1905 with $11 and two pairs of pants, 
walked 20 miles to Chase City, Virginia, and entered school. 
Working at whatever jobs were available, he completed high school 
when he was 27. He returned to his home where a group of 
parents and community leaders agreed to start a private school 
with Nash as the teacher. Each of the 50 students paid 50^ a 
month — at that time, $25 a month was good pay for a teacher 
in many areas. 

In less than a year, a local Presbyterian group decided that it 
would be a good idea to grant a scholarship to some deserving 
youth to attend Knoxville College, and chose Nash. He sold a 
tobacco crop and a calf, and with his belongings carried in a small 
"telescope" case, set out for Knoxville. There he worked on cam- 
pus helping tutor the younger students. He was so valuable to 
the college that when the U.S. entered World War I the president 
of the institution got him exempted from the draft to stay at the 
school and work. In 1921, following his graduation, Nash came 
to Athens to be assistant to J. L. Cook at the Athens Academy. 
Nash knew Booker T. Washington personally, having met him 
at religious and educational functions, and was greatly influ- 
enced by him. 

When Nash arrived, there were black persons in their 80s 
and 90s who had been among the first to come to the county. 
Blacks had originally come into the county either with the set- 

78 Tennessee County History Series 

tiers, or as a result of being purchased at "slave sales" up until 
the time of the Civil War. By the 1800s, few — if any — slaves came 
to this immediate area directly from Africa. Virginia had come 
to be known as the "slave breeding ground," and most major 
cities in that state had periodic sales in which the slaves were 
sold at auction. 

The slaveowners usually attended the auctions together, and 
marched the slaves back to their new homes in groups. East Ten- 
nessee was a major route south toward Atlanta. If someone be- 
came ill or could not make the full trip, he would be sold, traded, 
or given away along the route. In this way, less affluent people 
might acquire one or two slaves across several years. "Slaves" in 
this situation simply meant an additional hand to work beside 
the slaveowners in their fields and mills. The huge sprawl of cot- 
ton fields, with hundreds of field hands and their overseers spread 
out across a vast acreage, was unknown in McMinn County. At 
the height of slavery, there were only a small number of persons 
in the county owning more than half a dozen slaves. 

Nash stressed that, the general cruelties of the slavery period 
notwithstanding, the stories he had heard indicated that rela- 
tions between the races were peaceful and harmonious most of 
the time. People were respected for the quality of their work — 
a hard worker who was trustworthy and dependable was con- 
sidered a useful member of the community regardless of color. 
Slothfulness of any color was, on the other hand, despised. 
Throughout the middle 1900s an environment was being cre- 
ated that would allow for movement towards equality in the 1960s. 

Four of the best-known black citizens who were still alive in 
the early 1920s were Rose Baker, Isaac Matlock, George Gettys, 
and William Keith. As the names suggest, the freed slaves as- 
sumed the surnames of their former masters, and thus the same 
names are handed down in the black community that are found 
in the white community. The names were typically preceded by 
the respectful designations "Aunt" and "Uncle" which came to be 
scorned by later generations. Mrs. Baker had been a slave; she 
was an active community leader and one of the first members 
of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (Freedmans Chapel). 

McMINN 79 

Matlock was known for his gardening abilities; Keith was a dray- 
man delivering freight from the Southern depot. 

Another old citizen was Pat Spriggs, who gained some degree 
of notoriety because of an event that had occurred during the 
Civil War Spriggs, like several other young black men from the 
area, served in Shermans army, campaigned in East Tennessee, 
and participated in the "March to the Sea." One night near At- 
lanta, the cry arose about two in the morning that camp must be 
broken and a forced march immediately begun. In his haste, 
Spriggs did not have time to pull on his socks. Evidently a morn- 
ing of marching and a day of fighting without socks left a deep 
impression, for until he died in 1930, Spriggs never slept a single 
night without wearing his socks. 

Finally, in this early period, mention should be made of Bart 
Arnwine. Arnwine had three trademarks — a broad sense of hu- 
mor, a shining, double-bladed ax, and the reputation of being 
able to thresh more wheat in one day than anyone in the county. 
Like several of these memorable people, Arnwine lived to be over 
100 years old. 

Nash recalled many blacks who made important contribu- 
tions between 1921 and 1953, when he was involved in the coun- 
ty's educational system. C. H. Wilson, the last principal of the 
Athens Academy, was for 50 years the minister of the United 
Presbyterian Church. Walt Dotson operated the first black fu- 
neral establishment and was an active Mason in the highly thought 
of Black Masonic Order in Athens. Bill Scheeler was a railroad 
man and a minister. Reuben Scheeler, for nine years a teacher 
at Cook High School, went on to West Virginia State, Alabama 
State, and Southern University. He later worked with immigra- 
tion officials in Texas. 

Brice Buchanan was active in political, civic, and church af- 
fairs, and for many years was the much-beloved janitor at McMinn 
County High School. For many students across the years his desk 
in the basement boiler room was a place of genuine friendliness, 
advice, and mutual respect that knew no racial lines. 

Burkett Witt was also active in a broad spectrum of com- 
munity concerns. He became popular as a chef operating var- 

80 Tennessee County History Series 

ions establishments in Athens and the surrounding area beginning 
in the early 1950s. He then became active in community politics, 
serving several terms as city councilman. In 1983 he was elected 
mayor of Athens, the first black person to serve in such a capacity 
in the entire region. 

Nash also remembered the efforts of Arthur Fergerson, Sr, 
an AME minister; Teresa Wilson, a loving teacher; and Horace 
King, who was a mathematical genius, a meteorological specialist 
for the government in World War II, and a successful textbook 
author and professor at Riverside, California, Junior College. 

Professor Nash's recollections of notable blacks can be rein- 
forced by others mentioned by J. M. Sharp. In addition to George 
Gettys, James Gettys owned a second slave named Uncle Nelse. 
W' hen James Gettys fell on hard times, he was forced to sell Nelse. 
He was purchased by the Reverend Edwin Atlee, who did not 
believe in slavery, but was a friend of Gettys. Atlee immediately 
arranged a job going through the area buying poultry and eggs 
so that Nelse could buy his freedom. 

On one trip into Rhea County Nelse was brought to the sher- 
iff to be whipped because "he was too big for a negro. "The sher- 
iff, a man named Allen, resigned his position instead of whipping 
the kindly gentleman. A local minister stepped in and carried 
out the task. Although the Civil War came before the debt was 
paid, Nelse stayed with Atlee until it was paid in full. He later, 
with his wife, was responsible for taking in and raising the or- 
phan boy, J.L. (Jake) Cook. 

Sharp also mentions the following persons: Berry and Tish 
Isbell; the Reverend Amos Jackson, whose favorite saying was 
"I had a kind master (R. C.Jackson), but I love my freedom — if 
I forget thee, O Republican Party, let my tongue cleave to the 
roof of my mouth and my right hand forget her cunning"; the 
Reverend Jacob Armstrong who was popular in both black and 
white camp meetings; Roger Sherman, a mechanic; George 
Henderson, a bricklayer; Peter Wilds and Dick Branum, dray- 
men; and Will Matlock and Albert Evans, barbers. 

The key figure of the period after 1953 for the entire black 
community was Harper Johnson who was born near Riceville, 

McMINN 81 

and with his family moved to Athens in the 1920s. He attended 
the J. L. Cook High School, where he distinguished himself in 
the classroom and on the athletic field. Upon graduation, he at- 
tended Morris town Junior College, and then returned to teach 
in the black schools of Etowah for twelve years. During this time, 
Johnson completed his education and returned to Cook High as 
a teacher and coach. In 1953, when Professor Nash retired, he 
became principal. 

In many respects, Harper Johnson represented a mentality 
that was beginning to come of age, a new consciousness of hu- 
man dignity that was arising among black persons across the South. 
Until integration occurred in the mid-1960s, Johnson was an un- 
compromising voice calling for equality and justice. His students 
must have new textbooks and new desks, just like the white stu- 
dents. He was a reasonable man who desired to bring about in- 
tegration in a way that would insure a common foundation on 
which to build after the dramatic changes that would have to 
occur had taken place. Johnson became to his generation of stu- 
dents, as Nash had been to the preceding one, the model who 
would challenge young blacks to strive for only the highest that 
their lives could attain. He was in every way an uncommon man 
for an uncommon time, and the respect that was necessary for 
integration to work beyond just the surface changes that the law 
demanded was generated by his decisiveness and leadership. 

Johnson moved to Nashville in the late 1960s where he worked 
for the Tennessee Education Association. To honor him, the TEA 
began to give the E. Harper Johnson Human Relations Award. 
Significantly, two of these awards have been presented to McMinn 
Countians — the first, to Professor Nash, and the second to J. Neal 
Ensminger, the executive editor of The Daily Post- Athenian. Har- 
per Johnson's influence on every aspect of life in the county is 
high. He will always be considered one of the "shapers" of the 
county's destiny. He died in 1982. 

Professor Nash concluded his reminiscences by giving atten- 
tion to his thoughts for the future of the black community of the 
county. He was quick with a response that was undoubtedly al- 
ready well-formed in his mind: "If the young people can con- 

82 Tennessee County History Series 

tinuc to have ambition and some goal, and do not begin to have 
an inferiority complex, the future will be bright." One wonders 
if these sentiments might not apply to the entire county as it moves 
into a future where its special uniqueness competes with a much 
larger and much more complex "global village." To touch base 
with some old sources of wisdom is both refreshing and hopeful. 


A general overview of American religious history can be given 
quickly. Following the Revolutionary War and the expansion be- 
yond the Appalachians, religion moved immediately to the new 
frontier. With this movement, the character of religion in Amer- 
ica underwent a drastic change. Instead of the staid, intellectual 
approach that had characterized religion on the eastern sea- 
board, the religion of the new frontier was charged with the same 
highly emotional spirit that paralleled the adventuresome pi- 
oneer mentality and the daring that transformed the old wil- 
derness areas. By 1800 a revivalist movement was in full swing. 
Through two "Great Awakenings" and across the better part of 
two centuries, in many respects, the county's religious prefer- 
ences have changed very little. 

McMinn County was in the heart of the revival movement. 
Throughout the early period the county was a central place for 
the first camp meetings and "brush arbors" in southeastern Ten- 
nessee that gave the great revivals, and flaming tongued orators 
who stood in their midst, their memorable flavor. 

The first denomination to come to the frontier were the Pres- 
byterians. They were the strongest group on the seaboard and 
worked from a well-established organization. However, there were 
immediate problems. The Presbyterians believed in Calvinist 
doctrines of predestination and placed little or no emphasis on 
the free will of the human being. But the frontier character had 
been forged in the caldron of human will, leading to a conflict 
too great for the old traditions to bear. A major split within the 
denomination produced the "Cumberland Presbyterians" who 

McMINN 83 

softened the old Calvinism. This new group grew significantly 
and was well-represented in the county. 

The Baptist movement into the area followed on the heels 
of the first revival activities. The Baptists succeeded quickly and 
got off to a much better start than the Presbyterians for at least 
three reasons. First, they were not bound by old traditions, and 
second, they had a theology that stressed free will. Finally, they 
had ministers who were close to the people, typically being lay 
persons who felt "called to preach" and performed ministerial 
activities in addition to their regular work. 

Unfortunately, the Baptists soon became hamstrung on the- 
ological issues. Early in the 1800s, the "Landmarkism" contro- 
versy erupted over the belief that certain biblical "landmarks" 
were being compromised by theological liberals. Then, in the 
late 1840s, disagreement over the slavery question fostered a split 
that divided the Baptist faith in the United States into the South- 
ern and American Baptist Conventions. Since that time all Bap- 
tist congregations in the county, with the exception of random 
"independent" Baptist groups which have appeared from time 
to time, have belonged to the Southern Baptist Convention. 

The most successful early religious activitites were Method- 
ist. The "circuit riders" were trained in the scriptures, well-dis- 
ciplined as a group, and unbelievably energetic in covering the 
wide countryside. The Methodists, having established struc- 
tured conferences to provide direction and supervision, were 
also well-organized. 

It was not until the Civil War period that divisions led to the 
organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Every 
one of the Holston Conference ministers agreed with the "Plan 
of Separation," and thus any divisions were held at a minimum. 
Many of the political and social leaders of the eastern part of the 
state, like "Parson" Brownlow, were Methodist. The divisions 
elsewhere which created groups like the Republican Methodist 
Church, the Wesleyan Connection, and the Methodist Protestant 
Church were of little consequence in McMinn County. 

Although the real strength of Methodism may be in the 
northern part of the Holston Conference between Knoxville and 

84 Tennessee County History Series 

southwestern Virginia, the impact on McMinn County has been 
immense. This has been especially true because of the presence 
of Tennessee Wesleyan College and Hiwassee College in nearby 
Madison ville. Families of every denomination have been touched 
bv these schools, and their graduates have typically become the 
leading citizens of the communities in the area. 

Limitations of time and space preclude lengthy accounts of 
the churches in the county. All are distinctive and became the 
focal points of town and country life. What will be given here is, 
at best, a representative sketch of some of the earliest churches 
which have continuous histories into the present. 

The first religious experiences in the county were the old 
camp meetings which grew out of the great revivals. The most 
important of these were located at Cedar Springs, Spring Creek, 
and South Liberty. People came from great distances and spent 
a few days or weeks studying and worshipping — and socializ- 
ing — in the highly spiritualized atmosphere of the camps. 

The first church to be organized in the county was the Cal- 
houn Methodist Church in 1819. It was also the first church in 
the Cleveland District of the Holston Conference. The old church 
building stood as a historical landmark until the late 1960s. Its 
remaining graveyard is, beyond doubt, the most intriguing in 
the county. An early attempt to establish a Presbyterian Church 
at Calhoun was short-lived in spite of the assistance of Governor 
Joseph McMinn. A Baptist Church was established in 1874. 

There is some debate as to which was the next church to be 
organized. More than likely that honor belongs to what was called 
"The Baptist Church of Christ at BigSprings on the Little Mouse 
Creek." This was in 1822, and like most of the churches in the 
county, it was organized in a home — that of Elijah Hurst. One 
of the charter members was Jacob Womac, a leader of the Wa- 
tauga Association, the political ancestor of the state of Tennes- 
see. Another charter member was Isaac Lane, who had fought 
at King's Mountain and brought a large family to live in the Mouse 
Creek area. This church was closed about the time of the Civil 
War. In 1885 some former members established the Mouse Creek 



Mars Hill Presby- 
terian Church in 

Baptist Church. Eventually, the name was changed to the First 
Baptist Church of Niota. 

The Zion Hill Baptist Church was also organized in 1822. 
Although it is a small rural church today, in that period it was of 
great importance. Many churches in the county grew out of Zion 
Hill, not the least of which was First Baptist in Athens. Several 
of the most important Baptist ministers in the county's early his- 
tory were associated with Zion Hill and its parent church, Ches- 
tua Baptist in Monroe County, including Daniel Buckner who 
was named for his fathers close friend Daniel Boone, Thomas 
and James Russell, and J. P. Kefauver, grandfather of Estes 

The oldest church in Athens is the Mars Hill Presbyterian 
Church, which was organized in 1823. Among the first members 
were the Andersons, Breazeales, Bridges, Dixsons, Gettys, Jack- 
sons, Keys, McKeldins, Neils, Popes, Reids, and Wilsons. During 
the Civil War the church separated from the Northern Presby- 
tery and even allowed its minister to serve the Southern cause 
as a chaplain. The structure itself, originally built by the Cleages, 
has been rebuilt, remodeled, and survived fire to become one of 
the most beautiful buildings in the county. 

In 1824 the First Baptist Church was formed. Its original 
building was a log structure made available by a local physician 
and located on the site of the present Cedar Grove Cemetery. 

86 Tennessee County History Series 

In 1889 the congregation erected a new building near the right 
front of the present structure. In 1941 Charles Stephen Bond 
led in a building project at the present site, where the home of 
R. J. Fisher had been located. Under the leadership of R. Rich- 
ard Smith, the present sanctuary was completed in 1967. For 
many years this has been the largest church in the county. The 
First Baptist Church established three missions that later became 
important churches in their own right: East Athens Baptist Church 
in the Morningside community, West End Baptist Church in the 
Layman Hill area, and Central Baptist Church in the Avalon 
Heights section. 

In 1825 the Methodist Episcopal Church was established on 
property across Washington Avenue from the present site of 
Foree Clinic; the designation "South" was added on the eve 
of the Civil War. In 1829 Brownlow was the minister. A second 
building was in use from 1851 until 1878, when one of the most 
beautiful churches in the region was built. On Christmas night, 
1947, one of the most spectacular fires in the city's history com- 
pletely destroyed this building, which had been named "Keith 
Memorial" in 1939. The congregation met in the local high 
school for two years, constructed the present building, and has 
enjoyed steady growth ever since. 

St. Paul's Episcopal Church began services in 1834. The graceful 
lines of the present building on South Jackson Street serve as a 
fitting tribute to the devotion of the typically small congregations 
that have kept the Episcopalian faith alive in the county. 

The present Trinity Methodist Church, whose members held 
primarily Northern sympathies, was not formed until after the 
Civil War in 1865. Originally named the First Methodist Epis- 
copal Church, and after worshipping at several locations, the 
growing congregation entered the present structure in 1910; the 
site had been the well-known Foster's Livery Stable. The church 
has been closely associated with the life of Tennessee Wesleyan 
College over the years. A building on campus memorializes two 
of its ministers, John Petty and John Manker. The most famous 
minister was Nathaniel Green Taylor, who served at one time 

McMINN 87 

in the United States House of Representatives. His two sons, 
Robert Love and Alfred A., became governors of the state. 

The Taylor story is one of the most famous in Tennessee his- 
tory. Bob was a Democrat and Alfa Republican. Since they were 
"roses from the same garden, "their campaign came to be known, 
with reference to the old feud between the houses of York and 
Lancaster, as "The War of the Roses." The mens humor, skilled 
oratory, and musical ability turned out campaign crowds num- 
bering in the tens of thousands. Bobs campaign song was "Dixie" 
and Alf's "Yankee Doodle." Bob won by a narrow majority, even- 
tually served three terms, and went on to be a senator and a 
representative. Alf then served one term as governor, and three 
as congressman. Before their deaths, they toured the nation ap- 
pearing before large audiences as "Yankee Doodle and Dixie." 

In 1872, as part of the Brient development northeast of Ath- 
ens, a church was established at Happy Top. With most of the 
enterprises of that community, it moved to Tellico Junction in 
1893, and was known until 1909 as the Cross Grove Baptist Church. 
At that time the name of the community was changed to Engle- 
wood, and the church became the First Baptist Church. The 
Methodist Church in Englewood was organized in 1902. One 
name prominent at this time, which appears time and again in 
the early organizational activities of many churches in the county, 
is that of J. R. Land. 

The First United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., which stands 
on North Jackson Street, across from the Tennessee Wesleyan 
campus, was erected in 1892. The old church and manse next 
door stand much as they did in 1902. The church had been es- 
tablished in 1889 by a local man who had returned to Athens 
after receiving an excellent education. J. L. ("Jake") Cook— with 
the exception of W E. Nash and Harper Johnson — is the best- 
known and most influential black person in the county's history. 
The present pastor, Charles Johnson, who has held this position 
since 1966, is the longest standing member of the present clergy 
in the county and is a prominent black leader. 

Cook's parents had been slaves of one of the earliest settlers, 
Judge J. B. Cooke, but died when Jake was a young child. He 

88 Tennessee County History Series 

was raised bv "Uncle Nelse" and "Aunt Huldy" Gettys who had 
been slaves for the Gettys family. He was an avid student, and 
from the public schools he went on to Fisk University and then 
Knoxville College where he graduated in 1888. He then grad- 
uated from Alleghany Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, 
and returned in 1891 to establish the "Academy of Athens. "This 
school quickly gained recognition as one of the best black schools 
in the South. 

Cook was the only black at the national convention of the 
Presbyterian Church in Omaha in 1898. His talk was described 
in a publication of that day, The Christian Instructor, as "the bright- 
est and most popular address delivered before the Assem- 
bly.... Mr Cook is the best possible object lesson of the value of 
the work being done by the Board of Missions to the Freedmen." 

Cook continued in Athens as head of the academy and min- 
ister of the church until 1900 when he became president of Hen- 
derson Institute in Henderson, North Carolina. Through the 
mid-sixties Cook High School commemorated this teacher. 

Most of the churches in Etowah started about the same time 
that the town was established in 1906. There had been churches 
in the surrounding area, and the old Cane Creek campground 
operated by the Methodists was nearby. There was a great deal 
of competition among young suitors at Foster s Livery Stable for 
buggies and teams to drive to the camp meetings. Near the area 
that became Etowah was Crittenden Fork Baptist Church, later 
called Goodsprings. It was organized in 1872 and has always been 
one of the strongest rural churches in the county. The Coghill 
Baptist Church was organized even earlier, in 1860, south of the 
Etowah area near the present Polk County line. The first min- 
ister, E. C. Denton, served the church for 25 years. The church 
was one of the first before 1900 to begin the process of "mission" 
efforts to start new churches by organizing the Wetmore Baptist 
Church at Wetmore Station. 

The Wesleyanna Methodist Church was organized in 1861. 
In its long history, the church has been served by over 70 min- 
isters, 38 of whom have gone on to become bishops. 




The Foster Livery Stable about 1910, 
now stands 

here Trinity Methodist Church 

The oldest congregation in Etowah is the present Wesley 
Memorial Methodist Church. It was formerly the Tenth Street 
Methodist Church, and before that the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, South. It was instituted in 1906 and was the only church 
building in Etowah for over a year; many of the other congre- 
gations in town met in this building or at the old "Blue Front" 
on Tennessee Avenue. 

Three of the main churches in Etowah today started in 1907- 
1908, and each met for some time at the "Blue Front." The First 
Baptist Church showed the largest growth, and by 1919 had one 
of the largest Sunday schools in all of East Tennessee. Among 
the charter members were names that come down to the pres- 
ent — Cantrell, Creasman, Riggs, Roylston, Tillery, and Williams. 
W H. Runion was the first minister, and for several years there 
was a series of building projects. Under the 11-year pastorate of 
Dr. A. F. Mahan the church membership grew to over 1000. In 
later years, E. M. Holt led the church to great success, and today 

90 Tennessee County History Series 

the newly constructed sanctuary is one of the most beautiful in 
the county. 

St. Pauls was the third Methodist Church to be formed in 
Etowah. For 19 years the members worshipped on Pennsylvania 
Avenue. J. W. May was the first minister, and among the early 
members were M. L. Bryan, D. H. Day, Charlie Hutsell, John 
Reed, and Oran Reed. In 1926 the congregation moved to the 
Georgia Avenue and Eighth Street site. Mars Hill Methodist 
Church (built on a hill property owned by Benny Mars) was 
organized in 1906. 

The First Presbyterian Church was organized in June 1908. 
The charter members were J. A. Fowler, Mrs. Horace Green, 
P. A. Kinser, G. D. Pate, Mrs. D. M. Pearson, W. C. Reynolds, 
and Charles Wagner. 

Important information remains that could fill many vol- 
umes, but space limitations here are severe. Men such as Dillard 
Brown and Henry Stamey came out of Clearwater Baptist to be- 
come well-known leaders. Women such as Gussie Rose List lov- 
ingly taught a whole generation of Athenians to sing, and Mrs. 
Ruth Sharps Sunday school class grew into Allen Memorial 
Methodist Church. Mount Harmony Baptist Church in 1947 was 
acknowledged as the most outstanding rural church in the state. 
Jesse Dodson had a long and influential pastorate at Eastanallee 
Baptist. Liberty Hill Church of Christ was used during the Civil 
War as a "pest house" for soldiers with contagious diseases. 
Churches have a place of honor in the county's history. 


Education has always been a central concern in the county. 
The first educational institutions were mission schools for the 
Indians which were provided by various religious organizations 
with the ostensive purpose of education, but perhaps primarily 
concerned with evangelism. The Indians did not particularly care 
for the religion of the whites, but they appreciated educational 
opportunity sometimes even more than the majority of the first 
pioneers who gave priority to the children helping with the work 

McMINN 91 

in the new settlement. The mission to the Cherokees enjoyed 
great success until the time of the removal. 

The Methodists established a school called "The Conasauga 
Mission," while a Presbyterian group operating from Maryville 
under a pioneer missionary named Gideon Blackburn started a 
school at Walker's Ferry. Return Meigs, the capable Indian agent 
for the area, did a great deal to advance education among those 
under his charge, and in later years served on the board of trust- 
ees for Forest Hill Academy. 

Frontier children learned the "three Rs"at their mothers' knees. 
As the settlers prospered the more affluent employed young men 
with college backgrounds to tutor their children; educated min- 
isters also served as teachers. Frequently the children of less 
fortunate neighbors were invited to join the educational activ- 
ities. As early as 1805, for example, there are records of George 
Barber Davis who taught for the John Rogers' family at Rogers' 
Creek. Davis later moved to the mission school at Walker's Ferry. 

Beginning about 1823 at least two specific types of educa- 
tional institutions appeared in the county. First, there were pri- 
vate schools called "academies." Then, to a lesser extent, there 
were the first instances of public, or "free," education. In addi- 
tion, itinerant teachers travelled the countryside establishing 
"schools" in private dwellings or renting space for various lengths 
of time from a few weeks to several months. 

The "academies" were an intriguing educational enterprise. 
They were typically secondary schools, but might also cover 
everything from primary level work to seminary training. Hi- 
wassee Academy in Calhoun was the first in the county. It opened 
around 1823. Later, it was known as Hiwassee Masonic Institu- 
tion and, by as late as 1874, had nearly 100 students. 

In Athens, the Forest Hill Academy was established in 1825, 
and it has only been in the most recent years, with the establish- 
ment of Westside Elementary School, that the name Forest Hill has 
not been associated with education in the county. The large Cane 
Creek Academy or Seminary kept alive the memories of the old 
Cane Creek Methodist Campground until the middle 1800s. 



Tennessee County History Series 

The Forest Hill Academy in 1907 

In 1857 three important academies were established. In Rice- 
ville, John Biggs and Mollie Porter opened the Riceville Acad- 
emy. Ten years later the school was rechartered as the Riceville 
Scientific and Classical Institute. Dr. N. B. Goforth led the school 
to excellence. He established monthly public oral examinations, 
and large crowds would gather to hear the students (often termed 
"scholars" in the old records) perform. Dr. Goforth left Riceville 
around 1877 to go to Mossy Creek — present-day Jefferson City — 
to help establish Newman Female College and to marry the 
daughter of its founder. This school later became Carson-New- 
man College. 

Two other academies were started this same year in Mouse 
Creek (Niota). Because of a conflict over location, one came to 
be known as Mouse Creek Male and Female Academy, and the 
other as Fountain Hill Academy. By 1881 A. W. Weeks had es- 
tablished Mount Harmony Select School for Males and Females 
three miles outside of Mouse Creek. An advertisement from that 
time emphasized the importance of the location "in the beautiful 
and healthy valley of the Eastanallee, in a community where the 
people have long been distinguished for their generosity, strict 
morality, and harmonious workings for the advancement of ed- 
ucation and refinement." The following "terms" were set forth: 





Mouse Creek Academy in the late nineteenth century. Note the fly on 
the upper right corner of the glass plate negative. 

FIRST CLASS — To include Orthography, Reading, 

Writing, Primary Arithmetic $5.00 

SECOND CLASS — To include English Grammar, 

Geography, First Lessons in Composition and 

Practical Arithmetic $7.50 

94 Tennessee County History Series 

THIRD CLASS— To include Natural Philosophy, 
U.S. History, Anatomy, and Elementary Algebra $8.75 

FOURTH CLASS— Mental Philosophy, Common School 
Astronomy, Higher Arithmetic, Higher Algebra $10.00 

FIFTH CLASS — Rhetoric and Composition, Chemistry, 
Geometry, Trigonometry, Conic Sections, Analytic Geometry 
and Mathematical Astronomy $15.00 

CONTINGENT FEE— 25Cts. to be paid by each student 
on entering school. 

Students will be charged from the time they enter school to the 
close of the term. Deductions made only in case of protracted sick- 
ness. Board, including lights, can be had in good families at cheap 
rates. Students wishing to board themselves can obtains rooms and 
fuel for a trifle. 

The names of the trustees indicate family ties that have been 
important across the years: J. N. Cate, W. H. Forrest, D. P. Isbell, 
James Lewis (chairman), J. D. Lowry, Jr., J. P. Netherland, E. M. 
Stalcup, and W. P. Willson. 

Elementary or primary education began in an organized 
manner in 1823. Under Presbyterian guidance, a log building 
was erected in the present Cedar Grove Cemetery and was known 
as Cedar Grove School. Other schools at this early time were the 
Glover School, where McMinn Dodson taught, the Gum Hill 
School, and the Eastanallee School. Drawing from an old record, 
Ozelle Powers vividly describes the latter: 

The school was built on a section of land that had been worn out 
and no longer used for farming. The building was made of logs 
and had a rough pine floor of split logs. It had two doors, one on 
each side, and had four windows, one on each side of the doors. 
The building was approximatley twenty feet by twenty feet. At one 
end of the building was a rock fire place which was used for heat- 
ing. The children had split logs for seats. The children studied 
aloud, and the teacher believed in the hickory stick. The length of 
the school term was about six weeks and during this time the chil- 
dren went to school from sun-up to sun-down. 

The first public schools were not adequately financed, and 
sometimes were referred to as "pauper schools. "Even though an 

McMINN 95 

act was passed by the state legislature in 1873 to establish a public 
school system, a local option school tax was defeated. In 1874 
there were 66 schools and 73 teachers in the county. They taught 
approximately three months out of the year, and were paid $30.00 
per month. 

The public school situation had deteriorated to such an ex- 
tent by 1878 that they appeared to be on the brink of extinction. 
Superintendent C. R. Hoyl, in a report to the state superintend- 
ent, begged for help: "Oh, God! for Christ's sake forbid it, I would 
humbly pray thee, in His name, Amen!" 

There was also keen competition between the public and pri- 
vate schools. Lydia Bridges had the most prestigious private school 
in the area. It met in the basement of the Bridges' Hotel and was 
supported by the leading families of the community. Her stu- 
dents were derided as "Cellar Bugs"by the public school students 
who were, in turn, called "Gully Bugs" because of the location of 
their school near the large gully which ran near the north side 
of the school and along the south side of the town square. 

When Athens was incorporated in 1903 taxes could be levied 
and a city school system established. For the first six years the 
old Forest Hill Academy was used. Then in 1909 the present 
Forest Hill building, much of which has now been torn down, 
was constructed. Later, a school as added in North Athens, and 
after World War II schools were added in the Ingleside and City 
Park sections of the expanding town. Men like Bob Benton, 
George Galloway, and Harold Powers will remain important in 
the history of elementary education in the area. W F. Whitaker 
was the superintendent during the period of greatest growth. 

Up until the early part of the twentieth century there was 
little or no emphasis placed on educating the black population. 
A few attempts made by white teachers from the North were met 
by strong resistance. At least four black schools were burned. In 
1926 the county, with the help from the city and the Rosenwald 
Foundation, established a comprehensive black school called the 
Athens Training School. It was later renamed Cook High School 
in honor of J. L. Cook and, with other black schools in the Eto- 
wah area, operated until the desegregation period of the mid- 

96 Tennessee County History Series 

1960s. The Cook school was an outgrowth of the "Academy of 
Athens" mentioned earlier which had been located at the top of 
Depot Hill on the Wilson property next to Laycock Funeral Home. 

In 1891 a secondary school law was passed. Two years later, 
the county purchased the property of the old Athens Female 
College from Dr. L. L. H. Carlock for $2500. On April 20, 1893, 
McMinn County High School was opened as the first public sec- 
ondary school in East Tennessee and the second in the entire 
state. The first principal was M. R. M. Burke. In recent years, 
the work of B. L. Hale and J. Will Foster has been most noteworthy. 

High schools slowly became established in the other large 
communities, such as the one housed for a time in the Carnegie 
Library in Etowah. These were smaller, but built up records of 
proud accomplishment. After a series of consolidations since the 
mid-1960s there are now only two high schools, McMinn High 
in its new structure on Congress Parkway in Athens, and McMinn 
Central between Etowah and Englewood on Highway 411. 

The story of education in McMinn County is incomplete 
without a sketch of Tennessee Wesleyan College. Before 1850 a 
private academy had existed at the present site of the college, 
but it had burned. The Odd Fellows Lodge, whose members 
helped to start several colleges in Virginia and Tennessee, ob- 
tained a charter to build a college on the site and started the 
construction of the building known today as "Old College," which 
stands at the heart of the campus. Financial problems resulted 
in the Odd Fellows proposing a joint undertaking with the 
Methodist Church. 

The name Athens Female College was chosen in 1857, and 
by the time of the Civil War it was a thriving institution. A news- 
paper advertisement in 1863 read: "The larger and better por- 
tion of the young men of the country are in the army, fighting 
the battles of freedom and independence. And whatever else 
you leave undone, don't neglect to educate your daughters." 

However, financial problems, which have almost always 
plagued the college, arose again, and additional changes within 
the Methodist organization altered the character of the college. 
The Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church — 

McMINN 97 

the group with Union loyalties — was reorganized in 1865 at 
Athens. The female college owed a large sum to its president, Dr. 
Erastus Rowley, and he claimed ownership of the college against 
those debts. He immediately sold it to the newly reorganized 
conference, and in 1867 it became known as East Tennessee 
Wesleyan College. A year later it became coeducational and 
was renamed East Tennessee Wesleyan University. 

In 1884 Dr. John Fletcher Spence became president and com- 
menced a 26-year administration. During this period the names 
Grant Memorial University and then U.S. Grant University were 
used. Under this name it consolidated with the University of 
Chattanooga and was usually referred to simply as "The Athens 
School." This consolidation continued until 1925 under the 
administration of a variety of Chattanooga-based presidents and 
deans, the most important of whom was Arlo Ayres Brown who 
went on to be president of Drew University and a leading voice 
in American education in the hrst half of the twentieth century. 

Perhaps the most important person in the colleges history 
came on the scene in 1918, when James L. Robb began to ad- 
minister the Athens campus. In 1925, when the separation of 
the two schools occurred, Robb became president, and the school 
was named Tennessee Wesleyan College. 

Robb's tenure lasted until 1950, and he led the college through 
a period of great financial problems, the Depression, and two 
major wars. In spite of all this, the college grew both in facilities 
and student population. Robb's relationship to the Pfeiffer fam- 
ily of New York City resulted in major contributions that built a 
library, a girls' dormitory, and a gymnasium, the latter bearing 
Robb's name. Throughout Robb's administration, the college 
operated as a two-year junior college. 

During the administrations of Leroy Martin and Ralph 
Mohney, the college experienced continued growth having 
become a four-year institution in 1955. By the end of Mohney's 
term, the college budget was well over a million dollars, and 
the enrollment had increased to over seven hundred stu- 
dents. In 1967 the college granted 100 degrees and added 
several new faculty. 

98 Tennessee County History Series 

Like other small denominational schools, however, the col- 
lege fell on very difficult times in the early 1970s. It was feared 
that the doors might even be closed. Enrollments at private schools 
sharply declined across the country; at Tennessee Wesleyan it 
declined by nearly two-thirds. Thanks to efforts of alumni, friends, 
the community in general, and the able efforts of President George 
Naff, the college has survived and the immediate future looks 

The story of Tennessee Wesleyan College has been a story of 
continued perseverance and adaptation. It has faced difficult times 
again and again but always had the strength of character to find 
new avenues of service in the light of changing demands. At times 
the college has seemed like a "community within a community," 
and its initial Union sympathies may have put it at odds with 
many in the larger community. The college seems to be accepted 
more and more as a community resource, however, and a distinct 
asset in which the town can take great pride. To the extent that 
the community and the college align themselves as they face the 
future, the college's life will be assured and that of the commu- 
nity enhanced. 

A significant part of the story of the schools in the county is 
the story of athletics. McMinn County has a strong tradition of 
prowess on the gridiron, basketball court, and baseball diamond. 
From the time of the old softball and baseball teams that brought 
large crowds to Fisher Field to the present exodus to Knoxville 
on football Saturdays to see "The Big Orange," McMinn Coun- 
tians have been sports enthusiasts. People are likely to recall 
sporting events and athletes' names more quickly than those of 
politicians, ministers, and soldiers. It is impossible to recount all 
of the anecdotes relating to county athletic heroes and their ac- 
complishments. A "Sports Hall of Fame" has been established for 
that purpose. The persons cited here are only a representative 

Perhaps the most successful athlete from the county was Glenn 
"Mutt" Knox, who graduated from McMinn County High School 
in 1938 and then attended Tennessee Wesleyan College for two 
years. With the encouragement of his coach, Rube McCray, he 



An Athens High School football team near the turn of the century 

then enrolled at William and Mary where he attained Southern 
Conference MVP honors in basketball in 1943 and All-Southern 
honors in football. He went on to play both professional bas- 
ketball and football and later became a successful automobile 
dealer in Richmond, Virginia. 

J. B. "Ace" Adams is a commanding figure in sports in the 
county's history. He excelled as a baseball player at the University 
of Tennessee and Tennessee Wesleyan before going on to coach 
and serve as athletic director at McMinn County High School in 
the early 1950s. His teams attained some of the best records and 
won some of the biggest games in the school's history. Adams was 
also a member of the famed "Athens Oilers." His son, Joe, has 
become one of the most outstanding baseball coaches in the state 
at Bradley County High School. 

What "Ace" Adams has been to athletics in Athens, "Buck" 
Brown has been to sports in Englewood. An exceptional baseball 
and basketball player whose skilled pitching became his trade- 
mark, he served as coach and athletic director at Englewood High 

100 Tennessee County Histoiy Series 

and later at the new McMinn Central High School into the early 
1970s. Englewood fans also recall Charley Raper and Willard Reid, 
both well-known baseball players, and Shirley Majors, one of their 
most memorable football players. 

Wayne Grubb came from one of the most famous athletic 
families in the county, and went on to star at UT from 1958— 
1960. He gained the honor of being named to the All-Alabama 
Opponents team in 1960. In one of the most famous games in 
the history of the university, Tennessee faced eventual national 
champion Louisiana State and Heisman trophy-winner Billy 
Cannon in Knoxville on November 7, 1959. With the game at its 
end, and the score 14—13 in favor of UT, LSU attempted to run 
Cannon for a two point conversion that would win the game. 
One of the most celebrated pictures in the history of Sports Il- 
lustrated magazine shows Grubb at the goal line tackling Cannon 
and preserving the Tennessee victory. Grubb was joined by fel- 
low Athenian Jim Cartwright on this team. 

Bob "Mr. Dirty"Deal was well-known multisport athlete in the 
second quarter of the 1900s, who came to be best-known as an 
umpire. Deal infuriated fans and coaches alike, but to the play- 
ers who came to know him personally, there was no kinder and 
more caring man. His great interest in athletics certainly helped 
to raise the county's sporting experiences to higher plateaus. Fans 
of Etowah athletics also recall the exploits of J. "King" Dunn, 
Frank Thomas "Fatty" York, and Max Carroll. 

The following names will bring back memories for many 
McMinn Countians: Buenos Baker, Henry "Pie" Barnett, Boyd 
Coffee, "Big Peanut" Daugherty, Claude "Steel Arm"Dickey, Wil- 
lard Eaves (a member of the 1938 Duke University Rose Bowl 
team), Lee Fisher, Reed Halcomb, Rankin Hudson, Hobart "Feets" 
Jones, Ralph Jordan, David Knox, Glenn "Coot" Lawson, Ray- 
mond McKee, Benny Monroe, Phil Pierce, Mike Reynolds, Tommy 
Samples, "Tip" Smith, David Vestal, and Carter Whitaker. 


McMinn County has been fortunate in having excellent 
newspapers across its history, although there have been papers 

McMINN 101 

which have taken opposing views and often been in conflict. The 
two present papers — The Etowah Enterprise and the award-win- 
ning The Daily Post- Athenian — are prime examples of newspapers 
committed to keeping their subscribers abreast of the informa- 
tion they need. 

The first newspaper was The Hiwassee and Athens Gazette, which 
was started in 1830 by two Rhea Countians, S. M. and J. C. S. 
Hood. This paper continued until 1833 when it was succeeded 
by J. M. Brezeales Tennessee Journal. Three other papers estab- 
lished before midcentury were The Hiwassee Patriot, The Athens 
Courier, and The Hiwassee Republican. 

The most significant early newspaper event involved bring- 
ing Samuel P. Ivins from New Jersey via Knoxville in 1848 to 
found The Athens Post. The paper was conceived as a propaganda 
medium to advance the new interest in railroading. Using news- 
papers for political and business purposes was a typical practice 
in the mid-1800s. Ivins was successful, and The Post built a strong 
foundation under his direction until the late 1880s. 

During the Civil War a Union paper called The Athens Union 
Post came into existence. An opposition paper, The Athenian, was 
immediately established; The Athenian survived. In the late 1920s, 
E. T Taylor and J. Rollo Emert merged the two papers and pub- 
lished a twice-weekly Post-Athenian from the North Jackson 
location that was used until the 1960s. 

For a short time around 1936 Hurst Paul published the McMinn 
County Herald. Taylor was looking for a buyer for his paper, and 
on March 15 Fred Wankan arrived from Mississippi to survey 
the possibilities of coming to McMinn County. Wankan wanted 
to buy both local papers and merge them but could not reach an 
agreement with Paul. Soon after Wankans purchase of the Post- 
Athenian, the Paul paper ceased to exist. Within a year, Wankans 
paper began to be published daily and the present name, The 
Daily Post-Athenian, was established. 

In 1937 Wankan made two acquisitions that raised newspa- 
pering to new heights in McMinn County. First, the most mod- 
ern press available was installed, and was used for twenty years. 
Then, and most important, Wankan convinced Neal Ensminger 

102 Tennessee County Histoiy Series 

J. Neal Ensminger, executive editor 
of The Daily Post- Athenian 

to come to work for the paper. Across the years, Ensminger has 
worked in every branch of the business from reporter to exec- 
utive editor — with plenty of experience on the presses to boot. 
Of greater significance than any particular facet of his work, the 
spirit of the man has become the spirit of the paper, and The Daily 
Post-Athenian has been recognized repeatedly as one of the most 
outstanding small town papers in the Southeast. 

To pick a representative citizen from all who have lived in 
the county across the years would be difficult, but it would be a 
compliment to the county to allow Neal Ensminger to stand in 
that position. His work with the newspaper, local civic clubs, fund- 
raising projects, his Sunday school class at Keith Memorial, and 
his advocacy of Tennessee Wesleyan have affected the lives of 
countless persons in the region. He represents the best that 
the county can aspire to, and the excellence of The Daily Post- 
Athenian over the past half-century becomes a fitting tribute to 
him — a man of gentleness and wisdom whose description of 
the wind in the top of the mulberry bush is etched on the mem- 
ory as much as the cadence of his voice and the gleam in his 

McMINN 103 

eye. Alongside the other institutions of the county, Ensminger 
himself is an institution. 

Wankan sold the DPA in 1939, and two years later it passed 
into the hands of Lowell F. Arterburn. Arterburn's creative con- 
cern with communications not only advanced the paper, but also 
led to the establishment of the county's first radio station, WLAR. 
When Arterburn died in 1959 his wife, Helen, who was also a 
physician, led the paper. In 1962 she sold her interests to a group 
led bv Bob Svkes. One of the better-known writers of the region, 
Bill Casteel of The Chattanooga Times, was reared in Athens and 
started his career at the DPA. 

The other major newspaper in the county's history has been 
The Etowah Enterprise. It was established in 1907 by Thomas F. 
Peck from Madisonville who was in charge of the paper's op- 
eration until 1946 when it was sold to a local group and Frank 
McKinney became editor-publisher. McKinney directed the pa- 
per for nearly 30 years. The DPA group, led by Sykes, purchased 
the paper in 1964. For a short time in the early part of the cen- 
tury two other papers appeared in Etowah, The Etowah New Era 
and The Etowah Post. For a while a paper called The McMinn County 
Herald was published in Englewood. 

Finally, there has been one other newspaper venture of im- 
portance in the county. In 1960 Archie Wattenbarger established 
a weekly called The Athens Press. The paper did well, but Watten- 
barger s untimely death two years later made it impossible for 
the paper to continue. A last note should call attention to Daisy 
Rice Spradling whose reporting for the Chattanooga Times and 
feature writing about social and cultural events in McMinn County 
made her byline famous throughout the region. 

Only a lack of space prohibits some discussion of other in- 
stitutions and similar organizations which have been important 
in the county. Some mention should be made, however, of the 
Browning Circle. Organized as a women's reading group by Mrs. 
May Noel Moody in 1891, the circle ultimately grew to be the city 
of Athens only "public" library. The group named itself after the 
poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and took as their motto a line 
from her work: "We strike out blindly to a mark, believed in, but 

104 Tennessee County History Series 

not seen." Over the years the Browning Circle has made many 
efforts at civic enrichment in addition to the library. 

A Faithful Legacy Through Two Wars 

Young men from McMinn County have always responded 
quickly to their country's call during times of war. Their ances- 
tors had fought at Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War. 
From the Creek Wars to the Battle of New Orleans, from the 
Civil War to the Spanish-American conflict, McMinn Countians 
displayed exceptional valor and patriotism. 

Charles F Keith, Jr., has left an intriguing memoir of the first 
twentieth-century army unit to be mustered in the county, Com- 
pany "I" of the Sixth Regiment, National Guard of the state of 
Tennessee. The date of muster was December 20, 1901. The orig- 
inal group was made up of : James A. Arnwine, John B. Camp, 
Hershel M. Candler, James F Cook, Robert C. Cockron, William 
L. Cook, Affett C. Duff, Harry Dixon, Wiley A. Foster, J. Horace 
Gauldy, Pat S. Horton, Richard J. Haley, William R. Horton, Wil- 
liam O. Hoskins, Marshall J. Keith, Charles F Keith, Jr., Samuel 
Kelley, George C. Long, Bruce A. Long, M. Luther Minge, T 
Edwin Moody, Clay S. Matlock, Edward A. Meckling, F O. Mah- 
ery, Harvey Melton, James R Minge, Jr., Thomas F Neil, W Boyd 
Nankiville, Roger L. Owen, Charles H. Prescott, Harry C. Pe- 
ters, Allen W Rogers, Fred S. Riddle, William H. Rogers, Robert 
A. Reed, Claude W Richardson, Mack W Smith, Charles M. 
Sanders, Ben F Sherlin, William H. Stansel, William C. Steed, 
William R. Thomas, Jacob T Tuell, Ralph E. Wattles, Charles F 
W r alker, and Ollie M. West. 

There had been a terrible storm and several men in the county 
could not make it to the "Old Opera House" on North Jackson 
Street for the mustering ceremony. A Captain Drewery had come 
from Chattanooga to be in charge and would not be outdone by 
the elements. He simply took local citizens who were there, gave 
them the names of absentees, and proceeded with the roll call 
now containing the requisite number for an official mustering. 
The stand-ins were: Sheriff S. T Porter, Professor W F Mc- 

McMINN 105 

Carron, Dr. John B. Cross, Dr. W. W. Grant, George Kelley, John 
Jackson, M. L. Luther (who had been a drummer boy in the Con- 
federate army), Dr. James Nankiville, Tom Evans, N. Lockmiller, 
John Tuell, John Peters, and Roger Sherman. 

Soon old Springfield rifles and winter weight uniforms were 
issued to the new company. By summer, the unit was allowed to 
have their own light-weight summer uniforms made. A Mrs. Barr 
made the shirts and put brass buttons on them. The unit was 
called "The Brandon Guard," after the adjutant general of the 
state at that time, and had blue silk ribbons with gold lettering 
of this designation which were worn on civilian clothing. The 
Opera House was used as an armory, and troops drilled on the 
town square. Young girls came to watch the troops drill, and they 
all went to Algoods Bake and Ice Cream Parlor after the drills 
for refreshments. 

In 1902 state militia (as the national guard was then called) 
from throughout Tennessee camped in Athens, creating great 
excitement. The camp was set up in North Athens along Wood- 
ward Avenue and was named "Camp Louise" after the wife of 
the governor at that time, James B. Frazier. Mrs. Frazier was the 
former Louise Douglas Keith of Athens. 

According to Keiths account: "Each man drew two blankets, 
two blocks of straw, two wax candles, two men occupied a tent. 
For a bed you put your 'poncho 1 down then spread your straw, 
placed one blanket over the straw, and then used the other one 
to cover yourself. Then the tent had to be ditched around to 
keep water from running into it when it rained. If you sat down 
you had to sit on the straw covered bed, as no one but the officers 
had chairs in their tents." Keith then reported that it was the first 
nights sleep on the ground for most of the company, "but it did 
not make any sick." 

Except for a misunderstanding about which guard station 
would let troops from the unit back into camp after a late trip 
to Algoods that ended with Keith and some of his friends in the 
guardhouse, the camp was uneventful. The governor and his 
wife came to town for a large reception. "Troop B,"a crack cav- 
alry unit from Chattanooga, arrived to add to the festivities, and 

106 Tennessee Comity History Series 

according to Keith "the girls of town surely fell for the troops 
with their good looking uniforms, spurs and sabers." Beyond a 
doubt, times were much simpler then! 

In early 1916 the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa exe- 
cuted 15 American citizens and raided Columbus, New Mexico. 
President Woodrow Wilson immediately ordered American sol- 
diers under the command of Gen. John Pershing to capture Villa 
and put an end to the border conflicts. Serving as part of the 
Third Tennessee Infantry, McMinn Countians were on the Mex- 
ican border from July 1916 until March 1917. Their efforts con- 
stituted little more than a punitive counterattack, and although 
he was chased over a good deal of the Southwest, Villa avoided 

The time back home was short-lived, since by early August 
the local unit was recalled to active duty, spent a period of time 
training in Greenville, South Carolina, and sailed for France on 
May 11, 1918. The unit was engaged in combat on July 9 and 
became involved in the most decisive continual offensive of the 
war, which had them fighting almost every day through October 
23, when they were finally relieved. 

During this 3V3 month period, the army advanced from the 
low country of France and Belgium through the Argonne and 
nearly to the German border. The most significant moment came 
on September 29, 1918, when the formidable Hindenburg Line 
was smashed and the defeat of Germany assured. 

In May 1918 another group of soldiers left McMinn County, 
ultimately destined to fight over much of the same terrain. This 
time, it was 90 men who represented the first "selective service" 
that the county provided. Training was done at Camp Pike, Ar- 
kansas, where the majority of the trainees were from Michigan 
and Wisconsin. They were fascinated by the East Tennesseans, 
and this fascination was heightened by John Derrick of Etowah 
who went through the camp giving speeches telling about how, 
when called from his home on Starrs Mountain to serve his 
country, he came riding out of the hills on a mountain lion and 
wearing a rattlesnake for a necktie. Several of the men, includ- 
ing Derrick, Charles Boone, and Vernie Smith, were from Eto- 

McMINN 107 

wah; Charles Gemblin, Oscar Kibble, Oscar Liner, and Luther 
Stephenson were from Calhoun, George Parkison was from 
Riceville, and John Kelley from Athens. 

Their first combat was early October 1918 in the Argonne, 
and they soon pushed forward beyond the Meuse River in daily 
fighting. Liner, who was a barber by trade and often cut hair for 
soldiers while they sat on blasted tree stumps, and Boone were 
killed during this month and a half of battle. Like the McMinn 
Countians who came to this region 25 years later, they faced other 
obstacles in addition to the enemy — a flu epidemic killed nearly 
as many as bullets, shrapnel, and mustard gas. 

On the morning of November 11 scouts were sent out to ob- 
serve enemy positions as was customary. One group walked square 
into the face of a well-hidden German machine gun nest — they 
could have reached out and touched the barrel of the gun. In- 
stead of firing, the Germans motioned for them to go back. At 
11:00 a.m., word came that the Germans had surrendered — the 
men in the machine gun nest had already received the word. At 
noon, American and German soldiers met in the no-mans-land 
between their battle lines, shook hands, embraced, danced, and 

The unit was pulled back and that evening collected an enor- 
mous pile of wood to build a bonfire. With something of that fire 
still sparkling in his eyes, an 88-year-old veteran John Kelley, 
recalled how they sat in circles around the fire and sang battle 
songs to celebrate the victory. When the armistice was signed on 
November 17, the men marched to the Rhine River Valley where 
they served as occupation troops until April of 1919. 

Perhaps the most decorated person from this area of the state 
was David W Lillard, who had come from Decatur to practice 
law in Etowah in 1910. He was a leading figure in that community 
until 1941. Lillard commanded the Etowah guard company, took 
it to the Mexican border, and participated in 21 major battles in 
France before being wounded at Ponchaux on October 7, 1918. 
In spite of his wounds, he led his men to victory and received 
for his valor, among several other awards, the French Groix de 
Guerre and the American Distinguished Service Gross, be- 

108 Tennessee County History Series 

stowed by General Pershing himself. When Lillard returned to 
the countv in 1920 a motorcade of several hundred cars escorted 
him from Athens back to Etowah. 

Federal recognition of the local guard unit came on May 1, 
1938, and bv early 1939, as war clouds rose in Europe and the 
Pacific, the unit was fully enlisted. While numerous individuals 
fought in every theater and branch of the armed services in World 
War II, McMinn County became identified with the activities of 
the local guard unit, Company B, 117th Infantry, 30th (or "Old 
Hickory") Division. About half of the men were from the city of 
Athens and the remainder from the rural area. By the end of 
September 1940, the company had moved to Fort Jackson, South 
Carolina. The first officers were Capt. Herman L. Moses, 1st. Lt. 
Walter E. Moses, and 2nd Lt. Glenn Aytes. Soon Warren Giles 
and Zeb Sherrill were added to the rank of officers of the com- 
pany. Company B had been at Fort Jackson only a short time 
before Staff Sgt. Charles P. Robinson established a reputation 
for operating the finest mess in the entire division. Col. Grant 
A. Schlieker assumed command of the 117th Infantry on August 
12, 1942. Within a few weeks he moved Sergeant Robinson to 
regimental headquarters to operate the officers' mess. He did 
such a superior job that he had more influence with Colonel 
Schlieker than any other officer or man in the regiment. 

Because the company was composed of men who had had 
military training, they were first used to train draftees. This con- 
tinued until late 1943, when plans were made to move the com- 
pany to England to begin preparations for the invasion of Europe. 
The company boarded troop ships in February 1944 — an un- 
forgetable introduction to ocean travel for most of the company. 
Many of them could hardly wait for sight of the first German 
who could be repaid for having made them endure this agoniz- 
ing experience. 

The company trained in England through late May amidst 
the friendliness of the English people and growing rumors and 
speculation about an invasion. At last, a tight lid of secrecy was 
thrown on the encamped unit the first week of June, and it be- 
came clear that actual combat was close at hand. Major Giles was 

McMINN 109 

the regimental intelligence officer and paricipated in the 
initial planning. 

The first battalion of the "Old Hickory" Division landed on 
the Normandy Beach on "D Day + 6." They moved a short dis- 
tance inland, dug in, and waited. Finally, on June 20, the enemy 
was engaged, and Pvt. Wayne E. Lavender became the first battle 

The first three weeks of July found Company B (code name 
"Curlew Baker") engaged in what came to be their most difficult 
moment of the entire war: the hedgerows between the Vire River 
and the critical German stronghold at St. L6. Crossing the Vire 
would be the first real battle, but until St. L6 could be captured 
there would be no significant "break-out" from the beachhead. 

Beyond the fields and orchards inland from the Normandy 
beach the French countryside was crisscrossed by earthen dikes, 
tree-covered and sometimes ten feet high, that had been raised 
over the centuries of farming and construction of roads and 
drainage ditches. A War Department document from the period 
reported that in a typical eight-square-mile section of Normandy 
there were more than 3900 hedged enclosures. They were per- 
fect for tanks, machine gunners, and riflemen to hide behind, 
and almost completely impregnable by conventional means of 
warfare. A successful days fighting could easily be measured in 
feet and yards — and lives lost. 

On July 7 the Vire River crossing took place and the initial 
battle to break out of the Normandy beachhead was under way. 
Company B played a large part in this crossing. Capt. Edward 
R. Friday, commander of the company, was wounded and Lt. 
Daniel L. Sullivan, Jr., assumed command. By nightfall, after the 
Germans had counterattacked but been repulsed, Company B 
and the remainder of the 117th Infantry had firmly established 
its bridgehead. On July 9 the Germans counterattacked once 
more, this time combining infantry with tanks from the Panzer 
Lehr Division; they were repulsed with heavy losses. On July 12 
Lt. Sullivan was wounded and Lt. Robert C. Spiker from Mor- 
gantown, West Virginia, assumed command for the remainder 
of the war. 

110 Tennessee County History Series 

With the mixed blessing of a saturation air bombardment — 
often the pilots bombed and strafed their own infantry — the vic- 
tory was finally won by July 19. The battle had been costly. Of 
the original 3240 riflemen in the division, perhaps as many as 
757c were injured or killed. 

The next major action took place at Mortain and St. Barthe- 
lemy, where a German counterattack of four panzer divisions 
and all kinds of artillery and infantry units were thrown into an 
attack that was designed to do nothing less than drive the Allies 
back to the sea. But "Old Hickory" stood in the breach, and while 
sustaining great losses — Company C was all but wiped out — held 
its ground. In postwar interviews, according to Lt. Col. J. B. Owen, 
Jr., of Calhoun, the leading German commanders Jodl, Keitel, 
and Kesselring considered the stand at Mortain as a turning point 
that led to the ultimate defeat of the Third Reich. 

The Siegfried Line along the western frontier of Germany 
had been designed as an impenetrable last line of defense which 
would in all likelihood never have to be used. In case it was, it 
had been fortified with some of the best soldiers and most mod- 
ern war technology available. By early October 1944 "Old Hick- 
ory" had arrived and begun its attack. Company B comprised 
the "valiant men"at the forefront of the battle who were assigned 
the painful task of destroying three concrete-encased enemy gun 
emplacements called "pill boxes. "They captured their three and 
two more. October 2 was a bloody day for Company B, when it 
suffered 30 casualties. After six more days of fighting, Company 
B breached the Seigfried Line. 

In December Company B reached the Forest of Ardennes 
and faced an obstacle as grievous as the hedgerows and the con- 
crete pill boxes — winter. In fact, the winter of 1944—45 was one 
of the harshest on record. Men fell to frostbite almost as rapidly 
as they had to bullets. Veterans recall digging small foxholes, 
barely big enough for two men, spreading one poncho and over- 
coat on the ground, lying beside each other, and placing a second 
coat on top. Enough body heat was generated to provide warmth. 

Into the midst of these desperate circumstances, Germany 
launched its most famous last ditch effort to turn the Allied tide, 

McMINN 111 

the Battle of the Bulge. Again, the 30th Division was at the center 
of the fighting. Veterans can recall being rushed in blacked-out 
truck convoys through the frigid night into areas that were thought 
to be secure. Massed armor moved all around them, and the 
infantrymen became nervous from being in a closed vehicle in- 
stead of in the open field where instincts of self-preservation which 
had been honed over the last months could be best employed. 
On more than one occasion on that night enemy flares lit the sky, 
and the men of Company B would tumble from the trucks and 
run for the cover of the tree line. 

The radio voice of Nazi Germany, "Axis Sally," according to 
Owen, threatened "the fanatical Thirtieth Division, Rossevelt's 
SS troops, are enroute to the rescue; but this time it will be com- 
pletely annihilated." The First SS Panzer Division, perhaps the 
best unit that Germany had left, zealously fought to make her 
prophecy come true, but again a German fighting force met its 
match and the battle was turned. 

As Spring approached, the company received special train- 
ing in river crossing for the next major offensive, the crossing 
of the Rhine. The Allied command expected intense resistance 
since this was the last natural obstacle before Berlin. The antic- 
ipated battle was so important that generals Dwight Eisenhower 
and William Simpson visited with the troops on the night of March 
23, 1945. In Owens record, when Sgt. Leroy Summers of Com- 
pany B's second platoon was asked about the chances of a suc- 
cessful river crossing, he responded: "General, if Company B 
can't make it tonight, you can give up hope for the whole Ninth 

The crossing was made with relative ease, and suddenly Ger- 
man prisoners were being taken in droves. Company B still had 
a major problem, however; they were moving so quickly beyond 
anticipated objectives that they were coming under fire from their 
own air support. Daily advances of fifty miles or more became 
common — quite the reverse of the dreaded hedgerows. 

Finally, at the end of April, Company B took the city of 
Magdeburg on the Elbe River. Fully capable of advancing to Ber- 
lin immediately, the company fell victim to the widely disputed 

1 1 2 Tennessee County History Series 

decision requiring it to wait for the Russians to complete their 
westward march across Germany. 

Soon the company returned to the United States. The men 
were greeted in New York harbor by the beatific symbol of lib- 
erty's torch, which somehow burned more intensely because of 
the past year of their lives. By V-J Day most of the veterans were 
back in the county, ready to carry on their fight for freedom in 
an unusual way. 

Company B was part of one of the most highly decorated 
fighting units in the entire war, which received two Distinguished 
Unit Citations, the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star for 
the Siegfried Line offensive, and the Belgian Fourragere for the 
Ardennes campaign, that governments highest unit decoration. 
More enlisted men became officers from this company than any 
other national guard company in the U.S. Army; three became 
generals — John Calhoun, Warren Giles, and Carl Lay. 

Three other men received distinction in another way — Jim 
Barkley, John Elkins, and Charles Hughes were the only infan- 
trymen in the company to fight through the thickest of all the 
battles from the Vire River to Madgeburg without serious injury 
or battle relief. Participants in an amazing record of bravery, they 
were there every step of the way. Their "medal of honor" was 
the silver-wreathed blue and silver combat infantryman's badge. 

Wars are always instances of man's inability to live at his best. 
Nevertheless, the virtues of courage, devotion, and honor give 
rise to heroic actions by otherwise peaceful citizen-soldiers. The 
record of McMinn Countians in the great world wars, including 
3500 who participated in World War II, reveals a striking patri- 
otism that future generations need to recall, take pride in, and 
be inspired by. 

The Battle of Athens 

McMinn County has always been politically divergent, and 
many times that divergence has become belligerent and even vi- 
olent. The confrontations between the old Whig and Democratic 
factions before the Civil War on the town square at Athens were 

McMINN 113 

preludes to other political differences that have surfaced across 
the years. In addition, there has almost always been a spirit of 
competition between the various cities and communities in the 
county — in the 1950s, it was not unusual for a McMinn-Etowah 
football game to become a pitched battle, punctuated on at least 
one occasion by gunfire. 

Sometimes this political radicality could be based on what were 
conceived as the highest of moral and human intentions. The 
extremely active prohibition and temperance movements, that 
actually moved women with axes to invade taverns in neighbor- 
ing Meigs County, are a good example of this. Prohibitionists 
became active soon after the Civil War and organized groups like 
The Sons of Temperance and The Women's Christian Temper- 
ance Union. Speakers toured the county in a manner similar to 
the pre-Civil War debates. In 1909 a majority of citizens voted to 
become "dry" and, the bootleggers notwithstanding, the county 
has remained so until today. 

A notable example of radical political activity took place in 
1920 and is a certain hallmark for the county. After years of in- 
tense political maneuvering, the women's suffrage movement fi- 
nally succeeded in getting Congress to propose an amendment 
to the U.S. Constitution. It remained for 36 of the then 48 states 
to favor the amendment and it would become law. By August of 
1920 Tennessee had become the key, 36th state. The state leg- 
islature deadlocked twice on a vote to table, and the opposition 
forces, feeling that the resolution itself would fail, called for a 
vote. Harry T. Burn from Niota (who had voted to table) cast 
what turned out to be the deciding vote in favor of the resolu- 
tion. Burn voted for the resolution because he had promised his 
mother that he would help. One of the most important and-long- 
awaited movements in American political history was complete. 

However, no political activity in the county's history has ever 
come close to rivaling those events which took place on election 
day in Athens in 1946. Those events have come to be known as 
"The Battle of Athens," and they constitute the single most dis- 
cussed event in the county's history. Many citizens still recall the 
events of the period, and often their involvement in them, as if 


Tennessee County History Series 

** J 

$ . -#iisl 

Harry T. Burn of Niota on the steps of the capitol in Nashville following 
ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920. Burn 
is standing to the rear of the photograph shaking hands with Anita 
Pollitzer of Charleston, SC, legislative secretary of the National 
Woman's Party. 

they took place yesterday. Stories of large radios being placed 
before windows as shields, the sounds of bullets riccocheting 
against buildings, people sitting all night on their front porches 
with loaded guns, and the sight of brand new cars being burned 
in the streets are told and retold. 

It all began with Edward Hull Crump. He came from the 
most difficult of backgrounds — his father died in the great yel- 
low fever epidemic of 1878 when the younger Crump was three, 
and the dreams that his family had had of becoming landed gen- 
try in rural Mississippi had been crushed by Reconstruction. Like 
so many who had found their way there before and after him, 
Crump made his way to Memphis. His rise to success there was 

McMINN 115 

phenomenal. He soon owned the business he had first come to 
work for, married into one of the finest families of the city, began 
to amass what would come to be a personal fortune, and — most 
significantly — became politically active in the notorious Fourth 
Ward of Memphis. He became mayor in 1910 and served until 
1916. By the early 1930s, Crump had established the most pow- 
erful political machine in the states history, a machine which in- 
fluenced Tennessee politics for the better part of the next half 

Historians in the future will probably give mixed reviews to 
Crumps career and his use of power. To many, particularly in 
Memphis itself, he was known as "Mister Crump," the man who 
rode herd on a sinful "den of iniquity. "To others, especially those 
who were adversely effected by the outward extremities of the 
machine, he was "Boss Crump," symbolizing an iron-fisted, dic- 
tatorial rule that was not beyond corruption itself. Crump sup- 
ported the TVA and opposed the KKK, but he also knew every 
pragmatic political tactic that was needed to control the polling 
place and to profit politically from doing so. 

In what has come to be called the "vote grab of 1936," those who 
were sympathetic to Crump came to power in McMinn County. 
Paul Cantrell, who was involved with the powerful banking inter- 
ests of Etowah and aligned with the equally powerful Burch Biggs 
in Polk County, was elected state senator and essentially became 
the county's boss. George Woods, also from the eastern part of the 
county, was elected to the state legislature and, with backing from 
Crump, ultimately became speaker of the house. Pat Mansfield, a 
transplanted Georgian, was elected sheriff. 

To pass a final judgement on these men and their activities 
is difficult. In one sense, they participated in the types of political 
tactics that were commonplace at that time. Their activities were 
not unlike those used in many other places throughout the coun- 
try. In another sense, the harsh activities that were carried out, 
especially by a large "gang"of deputy sheriffs, had to have at least 
the implicit approval, if not even encouragement and direction, 
of the high elected officials. There was cooperation with boot- 
leggers and gambling rooms when there were adequate payoffs. 

1 1 6 Tennessee County History Series 

There was extensive "fee-grabbing" from unsuspecting tourists 
and travellers through the area. The sheriff was paid $5,000 a 
\ ear, but received expense money based on the number of per- 
sons jailed — in the ten-year period ending in 1946 those ex- 
penses had amounted to an almost inconceivable $300,000. 

Control of the ballot boxes, however, was the key, and this 
was done in two ways — possession of the apparatus that gener- 
ated poll tax receipts, and the actual counting of the votes. It was 
not unheard of to have the poll tax receipts handed out in whole- 
sale lots along with bootleg whiskey on election eve, and to con- 
fiscate at the merest whim, the receipts from political opponents. 
Names from graveyards throughout the county were often 
prominent among those who had voted. The deputies were the 
enforcers, bullies — some had served time in the penitentiary — 
who took advantage of the men being away at war to run rough- 
shod over the population. 

However, the soldiers heard about these happenings and 
chafed at the bit to get back home and do something about it. 
Theodore White's research featured Ralph Duggan, who had 
served in the Pacific in the Navy and who came to be a leading 
lawyer in the postwar period. According to White, Duggan 
"thought a lot more about McMinn County than he did about 
the Japs. If democracy was good enough to put on the Germans 
and the Japs, it was good enough for McMinn County, too!" White 
also adds that when two men on leave from the service were shot 
and killed by suspected machine forces, the out-of-power vet- 
erans and their supporters could no longer remain silent. 

Five veterans and one civilian met secretly early in 1946 and 
decided to enter a GI slate against the Cantrell and Mansfield 
group. Following a tactic that Boss Crump had tried in Mem- 
phis, Mansfield was leaving office and Cantrell himself planned 
to take his place. The sheriffs office handled large sums of money. 
Crump had been advised by friends, according to William Mil- 
ler s Memphis During the Progressive Era, "that he owed it to himself 
to run for some office with generous fees attached before leaving 
his political career," and Cantrell was following something of the 
same advice. 

McMINN 117 

A mass meeting was called in May which required GI iden- 
tification, at which a nonpartisan slate of candidates headed by 
Knox Henry, a decorated veteran of the North African cam- 
paign and a member of a highly respected Clearwater area fam- 
ily, for sheriff was established. Secret contributions from local 
businessmen enabled the returning soldiers to mount a strong 
campaign. The biggest obstacle to the GIs was the popular feel- 
ing that, in spite of how people voted, the machine would count 
the votes. The GIs established as the cornerstone of their cam- 
paign the slogan "Your Vote Will Be Counted As Cast!" 

On election day the largest number of citizens who had voted 
in years in McMinn County turned out, as did over two hundred 
armed deputies imported by Mansfield for the occasion. Each 
polling place had "watchers" of both parties, and soon there was 
conflict. In Etowah, a GI watcher asked that a ballot box be opened 
and certified as empty; he was arrested and jailed. There were 
several incidents in Athens. Walter Ellis was charged with a "fed- 
eral offense" and jailed. A black man, Tom Gillespie, was not al- 
lowed to vote over the GI watcher's objection. In fright, Gillespie 
ran and was shot in the back. Bob Harrell objected to an un- 
derage girl being allowed to vote; he was severely blackjacked 
and had to be hospitalized. Charles (Shy) Scott, Jr., and Ed Vestal 
were trapped by deputies while ballot boxes were confiscated in 
a city voting place on North Jackson Street. Scott's father and 
Jim Buttram faced drawn-gun conflict with Mansfield and one 
of his deputies while attempting to get the release of the young 
men. Through the diversion created by Neal Ensminger coming 
from the DPA to get a vote count, the men were able to break 
through a door to freedom. In a hail of gunfire the crowd which 
had gathered began to dive behind and under cars for protec- 
tion; the men escaped unharmed, but the boxes were gone. 

When the counting began, the GI slate was comfortably lead- 
ing by a three-to-one margin. It really did not matter, unfortu- 
nately, because boxes from the voting place mentioned above 
and one other important location were taken to the jail, where 
the only GIs present were securely behind bars. 

In marked frustration, and distressed over what was begin- 

118 Tennessee County History Series 

ning to appear as a foregone conclusion, the GIs met at their 
campaign headquarters where Johnsons Home Furnishings now 
stands. Suddenly two deputies appeared, flaunting their guns 
and badges, and commanded the crowd to disperse. Otto, Oley, 
and "Bull" Kennedy were brothers who never knew what it meant 
to back down an inch, especially in the face of such an obnoxious 
assault. Otto recalls taking all the threats that he could stand and 
then saying all that was needed to be said — "Bull, let's get 'em!" 
In the ensuing riot, five deputies were disarmed, beaten, and 
eventually taken outside of town, stripped of their clothing, and 
sent on their way back to Georgia. These deputies, if in fact they 
did as they were told, were the lucky ones. 

The problem of the ballot boxes still remained, and there was 
the additional problem that the GIs had now, in fact, breached 
the law. By morning, Cantrell could bring in reinforcements, 
perhaps even the national guard. If there was going to be a res- 
olution of the situation, it had to take place immediately. 

By early evening, quietly, the veterans had armed themselves 
with the best weapons available in the local national guard ar- 
mory. Some rumors remain that they had surreptitiously pur- 
chased 100,000 rounds of ammunition for shotguns and slipped 
these into town. Knowing little about military tactics, the ma- 
chine enforcers congregated in the county jail and made the crit- 
ical mistakes of leaving the veterans a perfect, high-ground 
vantage point across the block. One shot from the jail, which in 
previous years would have been enough to disperse any objec- 
tionable crowd, was answered by a volley of fire that continued 
for hours. Years later, young people who had heard the story 
could still go by the old DPA office on North Jackson Street and 
see bullet holes in the the walls from the battle. 

By 3:30 a.m., the men holding the jail had been dynamited 
into submission, and by early morning George Woods was calling 
Ralph Duggan to ask if he could come to Athens and certify the 
election of the GI slate. White reported that "when the GIs broke 
into the jail, they found some of the tally sheets marked by the 
machine had been scored fifteen to one for the Cantrell forces." 
When the final tally was completed, Knox Henry was elected 

McMINN 119 

sheriff, a good government league was formed, and a solid re- 
form movement was under way. 

The day after, an almost holiday mood prevailed. While there 
were random acts of revenge, the majority of the people who 
walked the streets, examined the bullet holes, saw the burned 
cars, and listened to the stories were caught up in a euphoria 
that had not been experienced in McMinn County in a long time. 
When one of the men trapped in the jail was asked what he 
did in the midst of the gunfire, he responded "I got behind the 
big stove in the kitchen — if it hadn't been hot, I would have 
got in it!" 

Newspapers and magazines throughout the nation carried 
reports about the event. Harper's Magazine sent Theodore White 
to cover the story. On a late summer's evening in the early 1960s 
a carload of tourists from Wisconsin drove into the town square. 
Suddenly they were horrified to be caught up in the sound of 
repeated gunfire — a plague of birds which were soiling every- 
thing near the square were being dislodged. The tourist asked 
anxious questions about what was taking place, and a uniformed 
policeman jokingly responded that "The Battle of Athens" was 
being fought again. The tourist turned ashen, said that he knew 
all about Athens, and supposedly "burned rubber "from the Robert 
E. Lee Hotel to the First Baptist Church, disappearing in a cloud 
of dust out Ingleside Avenue. The "battle" was one of the biggest 
news stories of the postwar era. 

There is no way to judge the impact that the events in McMinn 
County had on the rest of the state and even the nation as a 
whole. Inspired by these events, others rose to end corruption 
in their own communities. A figure of no less significance than 
Estes Kefauver emerged from the region to challenge Crump 
and win. Kefauver came to be one of the most important political 
figures in the nation in the 1950s. 

Freedom is repeatedly taken for granted, until it has been 
fought and died for — then it becomes precious. When freedom 
becomes precious, the status quo seldom remains unchallenged, 
especially when justice has been compromised. For a compelling 
moment on August 1, 1946, in McMinn County, freedom was 


Tennessee County History Series 


A partial view of Bowaters Southern Paper Corporation, the county's 
largest employer 

precious. In retrospect, historians may find it difficult to assign 
labels of "good guy" and "bad guy" in the "Battle of Athens. "La- 
bels that designate "ins" and "outs" may finally be more appro- 
priate. Nonetheless, this was the epic moment in the county's 
history, and myth has long since replaced — or at least ob- 
scured — the events that actually took place. 

A Look Toward the Future 

After World War II McMinn County underwent rapid growth 
and development. The entrance of Bowaters onto the scene in 
the early 1950s set the pace for the next two decades. Olin Mathe- 
son and Rust Engineering soon moved into the Calhoun area, 
Beaunit came to Etowah, and Westinghouse established a major 
plant in Athens. All of this, coupled with the fact that almost 
every existing plant in the community experienced expansion 

McMINN 121 

and new construction, meant that the industrial base of the county 
was growing rapidly. 

The vocational complexion of the county changed accordingly. 
The soldiers typically did not return to the farm but instead en- 
tered the plants, factories, and businesses. Many stayed in the county, 
but many others commuted to Chattanooga to work at Dupont, 
Combustion Engineering, and other plants. Others went to Knox- 
ville and Oak Ridge to work for TVA and Union Carbide, while 
still others worked on TVA construction projects throughout the 
valley to build the new power plants that attracted even more in- 
dustry to the region. The agricultural base of the economy rapidly 
changed, although fine farms continued to exit. 

This economic expansion, accompanied by the "postwar baby 
boom," meant that new home construction skyrocketed. In Ath- 
ens especially, whole new "subdivisions" — the word had not been 
used before — sprang up in the Ingleside and City Park areas and 
required that the city school system expand. Later, the neologism 
"shopping center" was added, and the topography of the com- 
munities changed even more. New highway construction to Eto- 
wah and Englewood, plus a Highway 11 Bypass from Niota to 
Riceville, greatly enhanced travel. The new interstate highway 
system ultimately paralled the old ETV&G rail route and opened 
the county to a revolution in trade and commerce much as the 
railroad had done a century before. Today the "Golden Arches," 
Holiday Inns, and almost every other symbol of major metro- 
politan centers are to be found right in the heart of the county. 

In many respects, it seems that the community has become 
decentralized and somehow that it has lost the focal points that 
it may have had in earlier years. The owners of old family busi- 
nesses could not always continue to hand their control down to 
another generation, as these succeeding generations may have 
moved away or somehow lacked the entrepreneurial zeal and 
creativity of the founders. Many of these businesses were bought 
by large conglomerates with corporate offices in distant cities. 
White Industries ultimately owned several local plants; the cor- 
porate giant, Pittsburgh Forges, bought Taylor Implement. 

With the influx of industries from the North, new people came 

122 Tennessee County History Series 

into the county and rose to positions of influence — economic, 
social, and political. There was a time only recently when it seemed 
possible to walk the streets of each town in the county and know 
almost everyone — that time has distinctly passed. 

The greatest element of change may have simply been the 
growing American mobility. It became too easy to go to Knoxville 
or Chattanooga, Nashville or Atlanta. Their concentration of wide 
ranges of choice in purchasing, dining, and entertainment was 
simply more than the smaller communities could offer. Then, 
large corporate interests began to build shopping centers which 
further detracted from the central cities. 

People seem to be searching for a new focal point around 
which to center the county. This may be too tall an order for an 
age in which television is rapidly completing the homogenization 
of society begun by Sears & Roebuck and Henry Ford. But as 
we conquer the ugly manifestations of provincialism — such as 
fear and distrust of anyone or anything different — we also lose 
much of the sense of continuity and tradition. The present age 
has made it as conceivable to view the county as an extension of 
Atlanta as it is to consider it an extension of Athens or any of 
the other communities. 

It will take years for the new high schools to gain the same 
sense of tradition held by the old schools in the individual com- 
munities. No national chain of full-service department stores can 
rival the personal touch of Ed Self, Curtis Foster, and August 
Adams at The Men's Shop. It is almost impossible to conceive of 
the bright plastic, fast food places gaining the character of The 
Cherokee Huddle, Burkett Witts — especially when it was in the 
old Cleage Building — or Riddles when it was on the present 
Woolworth's corner with overhead fans replacing air-condition- 
ing and milk shakes served in metal containers that held the bet- 
ter part of three full glasses. Undergraduates painfully watched 
the demolition of Ritter Hall at Tennessee Wesleyan so that a 
parking lot could be built, but the care given to Old College and 
Banfield Hall (now renamed Durham) has been more than worth 
the effort. Connections to the past can be preserved. 

Attempts have been made to renovate downtown areas, and 



The Etowah L&N Depot before 1910. This building has recently been 
renovated and is a local showplace. 

in doing so to revitalize old business districts. Calhoun, the oldest 
town, has suffered the most dilapidation. The old main street 
looks beyond repair. Only one street remains with a hint of the 
gracefulness of old residences. Etowah, the newest, seems to have 
become progressively conscious of preserving the past. The ren- 
ovated L&N station is beautifully done and a source of real civic 
pride. Perhaps its successful completion will become a catalyst 
for similar projects in other parts of the city. 

Niota, perhaps more than any other community in the county, 
has retained a great deal of its original uniqueness and charm. 
The old business district, the main residential sections, and the 
railroad station are strong reminders of the past. Much of this 
resulted from the way that the original families and their kin 
have remained close to the community. 

Athens has made a variety of efforts to reclaim the downtown 
area. Storefronts on both the north and south sides of the square 
have been redone and made quite attractive. The South Jackson, 


Tennessee County History Series 

The present county courthouse 

Eastanallee area has been greatly renovated and a park con- 
structed. Urban renewal has healed the scar of "Tin Can Holler," 
and new thoroughfares abound. The new courthouse, of course, 
is a striking centerpiece. An element is missing, however — the 
square's old character as a meeting place, a gathering place. 

Ultimately, it is the people together that become the focal point 
of a locality. They lend it their character and style. Unfortu- 
nately, the forces of change that have swept the nation in the last 
two decades have made it difficult for groups of people to have 
the kind of community solidarity and identity that counties like 
McMinn once enjoyed. 

New generations are coming on the scene. Generations are 
coming that may sense that something was missed in the postwar 
era's blind rush toward the twenty-first century. If they do, they 
will undoubtedly look for the kind of place that can be infused 
with their spirit. McMinn County continues to be exactly that 
kind of place. 

Suggested Readings 

Newspapers: The most extensive record of materials available on McMinn 
County is to be found in the archives of The Daily Post-Athenian and, to 
a somewhat lesser extent, The Etowah Enterprise. Both of these papers 
have published extensive, retrospective editions coinciding with the 
American Bicentennial and other important historical dates. 

Public Libraries: The local history resources available at both the Athens 
and Etowah public libraries are limited. A few short personal memoirs 
are available. The McMinn County Historical Museum has been es- 
tablished on the campus of Tennessee Wesleyan College, and is becom- 
ing a center for an increasing historical consciousness in the county. 

Resource Persons: James Burn at Edgewood Farm in Niota would be 
an excellent contact person for futher information, as would J. Neal 
Ensminger of The Daily Post- Athenian. 

Books and Articles 

Campbell, Mary. The Attitude of Tennesseans toward the Union. New York: 
Vantage Press, 1961. 

Coulter, E. M. William G. Brownlow: Fighting Parson of the Southern High- 
lands. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971. 

Dykeman, Wilma: Tennessee: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 

Goodspeed, Weston A., et al. History of Thirty East Tennessee Counties, with 
Biographical Sketches (1887). rpt. Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder, 

Hard Times Remembered: A Study of the Depression in McMinn County, ed. 
Bill Akins and Genevieve Wiggins. Athens: McMinn County His- 
torical Society, 1983. 

Historical and Pictorial Review, National Guard of the State of Tennessee. 
(available in annual editions with pertinent ones from McMinn 
County beginning in 1939). 

Keith, Charles Fleming. Personal Memoir, n.d., in Edward Gauche Fisher 
Public Library, Athens,Tennessee. 

Lewis,Thomas M. N.,and Madeline Kneberg. Tribes that Slumber. Knox- 
ville: University of Tennessee Press, 1955. 


126 Tennessee County History Series 

Lindsley, John. The Military Annals of Tennessee: Confederate. Spartan- 
burg, SC: The Reprint Co., 1974. 

Martin, Leroy. "A History of Tennessee Wesleyan College." 1957 (avail- 
able from the college, TWC Library, and Fisher Library). 

Patten, Cartter. A Tennessee Chronicle. Chattanooga: The Author, 1953. 

Sharp, John McClure. Recollections and Hearsays of Athens: Fifty Years and 
Beyond. Athens: The Author, 1933. 

Temple, Oliver P. East Tennessee and the Civil War. Freeport, NY: Books 
for Learning Press, 1971. 

Tennessee State Library and Archives. "Inventory of McMinn County 
Records." Nashville: State Library and Archives, 1964-. Unpub- 
lished typescript. 

Tennessee Valley Authority, Industry Division. Agricultural-Industrial 
Survey of McMinn County, Tennessee. Knoxville: TVA, 1934. 

Turner, Martha. "The Cause of the Union in East Tennessee." Tennessee 
Historical Quarterly, 40 (Winter 1981). 

Valliere, Kenneth L. "Benjamin Correy, Tennessean Among the Cher- 
okees: A Study of the Removal Policy of Andrew Jackson, part 1." 
Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 41 (Summer of 1982). 

White, T. H. "The Battle of Athens, Tennessee." Harpers Magazine, 
January 1947. 


Illustrations are indicated by an asterisk following the 
page number. 

Adams, J. B. "Ace," 99 

Arnwine, Bart, 79 

Arterburn, Lowell F., 103 

Athens, 7, 20, 26, 29, 31, 32, 38-39, 44, 

117. 120, 121, 123-124; banks, 21; 

battle of, xi-xii, 112-119; fires, 70; 

in 1850, 20-21; in 1870, 56-59; 

in 1920s, 60-64; in 1930s, 65-67 
Athens Hosiery Mill, 41, 54, 61-62 
Athens Mining & Manufacturing Co., 

Athens Press, 103 
Athens Roller Mills, 41-42 
Athens Training School, 95 
Athletics, 98-100 
Aytes, Glenn, 108 

Baker, Rose, 78 

Baptists, 83, 84, 85-86, 87, 88, 90 

Barkley,Jim, 112 

Blacks in county, 76—82. See also Slavery. 

Blackburn, Gideon, 91 

Blair, Samuel P., 68, 69 

"Blue Front," 73*, 74, 89 

Bovvaters Southern Paper Corporation, 

40, 120* 
Bovd, Spencer, 31 
Bradford, Mary, 9 
Bradford, James S., 31 
Brient, Jacob, James & Mortimer, 49 
Brown, Buck, 99-100 
Brown, Dillard, 90 
Browning Circle, 103-104 
Brownlow, Parson William G., 27-28, 86 
Bryan, Retta, 75 
Bryan, M. L., 75 
Buchanan, Brice, 79 
Burn, T. Harry, 113, 114* 
Burn.J. L.,69, 70 
Buttram, Jim, 1 17 

Calhoun, 7, 9, 20, 31, 40, 67, 91, 120, 123 
Calhoun, John, 1 12 
Cantrell, John, 1 1-13 

Cantrell, Paul, 115, 116, 118 

Cantrell family, 74-75 

Gate, A. M., 36 

Cherokee Removal, 16-19 

Chesnutt,J. W.,49 

Chesnutt, Nannie, 49 

Church of Christ, 90 

Civil War, 28-39; early emancipation 

position, 23-24; Greeneville 

Convention, 26; impact of war, 31-32; 

newspapers, 101; referendum votes, 

25, 26. See also States' rights 

Clegg (Cleage), Samuel, 1 1 
Coffey, Asbury M., 10-1 1, 46 
Collins, H. A., 68, 70 
Confederate units, 29-30 
Cook, J. L. (Jake), 80, 87-88 
Cook High School, 95-96 
Cooke, James B., 30 
Cooke, William Henry, 13, 46 
Crescent Hosiery Mill, 41, 69-70 
Crutchfield, Thomas, 1 1 
Cumberland Presbyterians, 82-83 

Daily Post- Athenian, 1 1-1 02 

Davis, George Barber, 91 

Davis, O. L., 74 

Deal, Bob "Mr. Dirty," 100 

Derrick, John, 106 

Dills Company of Vaughn s Brigade, 

Dodson, Jesse, 90 
Dodson, Oliver M., 39 
Dotson, Walt, 79 
Duggari, Ralph, 116, 118 

East Tennessee & Georgia RR, 46-47, 68; 

first officials, 46; schedule, 47 
Early settlers in county, 7-14, 20 
Education, 90-100; of Cherokees, 17 
Elkins, John, 1 12 
Ellis, Walter, 1 1 7 
Englewood, 49-50, 87, 99. See also 

Tellico function. 



Tennessee County History Series 

Ensminger. J. Neal, 81, 101-103, 
102*, 117 

Etowah. 43. 48-49. 72-76. 117, 120. 123; 

attorneys. 75; Carnegie Library, 76; 

churches, 88—90; early businesses, 

73-75; health care, 75-76 
Etowah Enterprises, 101, 103 

Federal units, 30-3 1 

Fires. 70 

Fisher, R.J. Jr.. 61 

Fisher, R.J. Sr, 52, 53*, 54, 61 

Foree. Drs. J. O., Ed, & Carey, 66 

Foreman, James, 18 

Forest Hill Academy, 91, 92*, 95 

Forest Hill School, 66 

Forrest, Albartus, 30 

Forrest, W. F. & family, 69, 70 

Fountain Hill Academy, 92 

Froneberger, W. R., 75 

Garwood, Sid, 51 


Getty s, Frank, 42 

Gettys, James, 47, 80 

Gettys, Uncle Nelse, 80 

Gettys, Tobe, 67 

Giles, Warren, 108-109, 112 

Gillespie, Tom, 1 17 

Goforth, Dr. N. B., 92 

Gouldy,J.A., 29 

Grand View Hotel, 54-55. See also 

"Red Elephant." 
Gregory, J. W., 51 
Grubb, Wayne, 100 

Harrell, Bob, 117 
Hart, John, 5-6 
Henry, Knox, 118-119 
Hiwassee Academy, 91 
Hiwassee Rail Road, 11, 44-46 
Hiwassee River, 1 , 3 
Hiwassee River Bridge, 35-37 
Hughes, Charles, 112 
Hughes, Joe, 34 

Indians, 3-5, 16-19,90-91 
Industrial development, 40-75, 121 
Ivins, Dan, 75 
Ivins, Samuel P., 44, 101 

Jackson, Amos, 80 
Jackson, R.C., 44 
Jarnigan, Hamilton, 42 
Johnson, Charles, 87 

Johnson, Harper, 80-81 

Kefauver, Estes, 13, 119 

Keith, Charles F. Jr., 63, 104 

Keith, Charles Fleming, 13-14, 20 

Keith, Elliot, 42-43 

Keith, William, 79 

Keith Memorial Church, 13, 86, 102 

Kelley,John, 107 

Kennedy brothers, 74, 118 

King, Horace, 80 

Knox, Glenn "Mutt," 98-99 

Land, J. R., 87 

Lane, Isaac & Tidence, 14, 84 


Lavender, Wayne E., 109 

Lay, Carl, 112 

Lee Highway, 64-65 

Lewis, J. N., 73 

Lillard, David W, 75, 107-108 

List, Gussie Rose, 90 

Lowry, William, 20 

Lowry, Willie, 29 

McClary, Dr. Spenser, 75-76 

McDermott, W P. H., 29 

McGaughey,John, 26, 39 

McKinney, Frank, 73, 103 

McMinn, Joseph, 14-15 

McMinn County: courthouses, 1 1, 
12*, 124*; first officials, 20; map, 
2; organization of, 20; 1834 
population, 20 

McMinn County High School, 96 

Mansfield, Pat, 115,117 

Matlock, Isaac, 79 

May, M. R., 26 

Mayfield, Jessie, 1 1 

Mayfield Dairy Farms, 60, 61* 

Meigs, Return J., 15, 21, 91 

Methodists, 83-84, 86-87, 88, 89, 91, 

Miller, M. M.,51 
Mills, early, 41-43 
Moses, Herman L., 108 
Moses, Walter E., 108 
Mount Harmony Select School, 92-94 
Mouse Creek (Niota), 21, 30, 47, 68, 

70—71, 92; early merchants and 

settlers, 21 
Mouse Creek Academy, 69, 92, 93* 

Nankiville, Dr.J. R., 66, 104 



Nash, W.E., 77-78,81-82 

National Guard; 1901 volunteers, 104; 

polite action in Mexico, 106 
Neal, John R., 29 
Neil, John C, 30 
Newspapers, 100-103 
Nichols, J. O., 75 
Nineteenth Amendment, 1 13 
Niota, 68-72, 92, 123; Bank of, 70. 

See also Mouse Creek. 

"Old College," 34-35 
Owen, J. B., 110 

Parker, Dr. P. E., 75 
Powers, Ozelle, 94 
Presbyterians, 82, 85, 87, 90, 91, 94 
Public schools, early, 94—95 

Railroads, 43-51, 68, 72 

Rains, John, 73 

Reagan, James Hayes, 44—45*, 47 

Red Elephant, the, 54-55, 56* 

Religion, 82-90 

Rice, Charles, 67 

Riceville, 21,31, 67-68 

Riceville Academy, 92 

Riddles, 122 

Ridenour, Prof. J. C, 66-67 

Robb, James L., 97 

Robinson, Charles P., 108 

Rogers, John, 91 

Ross, George W., 39 

Rowley, Erastus, 97 

Rucker, E. W., 29 

Saulpaw, G. L., 41 
Scheeler, Reuben, 79 
Schermerhorn, J. E, 18 
Schultz, H. L.,68 
Scott, Charles Jr., 1 17 
Senter, DeWitt C, 28 
Seventh TN Mounted Infantry 

Regiment, USA, 38-39 
Sevier, Elizabeth, 7 
Sharp, J. M.,65, 80 

Sharp, Mrs. Ruth, 90 

Shelton, James, 9-10 

Sherman, Gen. William T., 32-33, 36-67 

Slack, Ephraim, 41 

Slavery, 22, 23. 77-78 

Spanish explorers, 6-7 

Spence, John Fletcher, 97 

Spradling, Daisy Rice, 103 

Spriggs, Pat, 79 

Springston, Isaac, 18 

Staley, C. B., 70 

Stamey, Henry, 90 

States' rights controversy, 24-27 

Summers, Leroy, 1 1 1 

Tellico Junction, 48, 49, See also 

Tellico Railroad Co., 49 
Tennessee Coach Co., 51 
Tennessee Wesleyan College, 54, 96—98, 

122. See also "Old College." 
Thompson, Riley, 42 
Todd, Donald, 75 
Trew, J. W., 43 
Tucker, R. L., 74 

Unionists, 25, 26, 38-39 

Vandivere, S. H., 74 

Van Dyke, T Nixon, 21, 32, 46 

Vestal, Ed, 117 

Walker, John, 5, 8-9 

Walker, John Jr., 16, 18,20 

Walker s Ferry, 9, 91 

Wankan, Fred, 101-102 

Ward, Nancy, 7 

Wattenbarger family, 34 

W r hite Cliffs Springs Resort, 50*— 51 

Willson, H. M., 70 

Willson, Hugh, 70 

Willson, William, 60 

Wilson, C. H.,79 

Witt, Burkett, 79, 122 

Woods, George, 115, 118 

Woods Memorial Hospital, 75 

World War I, 106-108 

World War II, 108-112 

About the Author 

Steve Byrum was born in 1947 in Athens and spent the first 
eighteen years of his life in McMinn County. Since that time he 
has continued to live in proximity to the county and to retain 
many family ties there. 

His mothers family (Bradford) were original settlers in the 
Calhoun area, have a part Cherokee lineage, and trace their 
English ancestry to William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony. 
His fathers family had been tenant farmers who came into the 
area shortly after the turn of the century from the northeastern 
part of the state. 

Dr. Byrum is a graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan College, with 
a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary in Louis- 
ville, and master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees in 
philosophy from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is 
presently assistant dean of humanities and associate professor 
of philosophy at Chattanooga State Community College, and has 
written extensively in many areas. 

He is married to the former Phyllis Hughes of Athens, whose 
ancestry is Henderson, Frye and Kelley. They have two children, 
Philip and Meredith, and live in Chattanooga.